Saturday, Sep 25

CONCORD, N.C— Kyle Larson will start from the pole in the Monster Energy All Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This is his first pole in the All-Star race. Chip Ganassi Racing also scored their first pole in the All Star race. 

 

“May is a huge month for Chip Ganassi Racing in what goes on here and at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway. So, we are starting with a good starting spot here. I hope we win the All-Star race tomorrow. We were close last year. And the atmosphere of the All-Star race, well, there’s just something about it. It’s a lot of fun and not a whole lot on the line other than a lot of money. So, I’m excited for tomorrow’s events," said Larson. 

 

Larson snagged the pole after Kurt Busch was assessed a 10 second penalty due to two missing lug nuts. Busch will start in the Monster Energy All Star Race from the fifth position.

 

Larson posted the fastest three lap average with the pit stop at a speed of 143.839 mph. Kyle Busch will start second with his average speed of 143.826 mph, Kevin Harvick will start third with an average speed of 143.504 mph, Jimmie Johnson will start third with his average speed of 133.123, and Ku. Busch rounded out the top-five with an average speed of 132.703 mph.

 

Ryan Newman was the only driver to spin during qualifying. He was able to hold the throttle without hitting anything. He was able to post an average speed of 136.563 mph to start 15th on Saturday night.

 

In the first round, Martin Truex, Jr. received a five second penalty on pit road due to a loose lug nut. In the second round, Johnson was also assessed a five second penalty for having too many crew members over the wall too soon.

 

 

Harvick won the fastest pit crew award after posting the best average pit stop time during both rounds of qualifying.

 

“That was really our goal.  The car was looser, but I don’t think that was a huge deficit for us.  As you look at the lap we probably could have run a couple tenths faster there, but, all in all, our goal was to not make any huge mistakes.  I feel like starting up front with the way that the tires are and the way that everything is will be a huge benefit because of the fact of your average position and all of the things that have to happen,” said Harvick about the difference between the rounds. We just didn’t want to start in the back, so lugnuts tight, not sliding through the pit box, don’t miss pit road and don’t overdrive the car.  We probably could have all done a little bit better, but all in all we didn’t make any huge mistakes and that was the goal.”

 

The Monster Energy All-Star Race coverage will kick off on Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1 beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the Monster Energy Open. Qualifying for the open will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 4:35 p.m. EST.

CONCORD, N.C— Following a violent crash at Kansas Speedway on lap 199, Aric Almirola made the trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway to talk about his week following a T5 vertebrae compression fracture. Although it wasn’t in a driver’s suit, Almirola was grateful to be at the racetrack.

“I’m glad to be here, too.  I wish I was sitting here in a driver’s uniform, but I’m not. First and foremost, I want to thank God.  I didn’t’ think I was lucky.  I was pretty upset in the moment and then after meeting with doctors in Kansas and Charlotte I realized how fortunate I was.  I want to thank the Good Lord for looking out for me,” said Almirola in his opening statements on Friday. 

While walking through the accident, Almirola stated he was a full two seconds behind the accident. He could have missed the wreck, but was committed to the very outside lane. He saw the cars of Danica Patrick and Joey Logano come up the track abruptly into his lane and into the catch fence. While trying to avoid the accident, his car went loose hitting some oil and water resulting in being unable to steer the car.

“I felt like from that point my car was on railroad tracks and I was just headed straight for the wreck.  There was nothing I could do.  I’ve been doing this for a  long time and I feel like I’ve always been able to miss wrecks, especially from that far back,” said Almirola.

Almirola knew that the wreck was coming and braced for impact. At the moment of impact, Almirola felt a sharp pain in his back; A moment he said “felt like somebody stuck a knife in my back.” He then realized his car was airborne because he could see the asphalt. That “knife in my back” moment was made worse when he landed because it felt like “somebody took that knife and just twisted it up in my back.”

Almirola is scheduled to be out of the car for eight to 12 weeks. He is not “happy” about it, but does want to make sure that it is properly healed before getting back in the car.

“Getting back in a race car two weeks too soon is just gonna add two more starts to my start column and the stat book, but if I were to get in another similar accident and not be properly healed, you’re talking about potentially being paralyzed from the belly button down, so I’m not gonna risk that,” said Almirola. “I’ve got a lot of baseball to play with my son and I’d like to dance with my daughter one day at her wedding, so I’m not gonna risk it.  Whenever the doctors clear me, I’ll be ready to get back in a race car.”

With the timetable of return being eight to 12 weeks, Almirola will be unable to make the Playoffs in September. Almirola will not use that as an incentive to get back in the car as quickly as possible.

“I think the incentive to make sure that I can run around in my front yard with my kids is enough for me to not rush back.  I’m gonna listen to the doctors.  I’m young.  I’ve got a lot of life ahead of me.  I’ve got a four year old and a three year old at home,” Almirola stated. “I’m not gonna do anything stupid to rush myself back in a race car and risk not being able to feel anything from my belly button down for the rest of my life.  That’s most important to me.  Being out 8-12 weeks and not having a chance at the Playoffs, obviously that stinks, especially coming off Talladega.”

William Heisel, Director of OrthCarolina Motorsports, said Almirola’s injury was worse than recent injuries of Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin and explained what Almirola will have to go through.

“This fracture is at a higher level than the injuries that Denny sustained or that Tony sustained.  This fracture though has outstanding healing potential.  Because of the location it’s a very stable fracture from the standpoint that the ligaments that connect the bones are all intact and they’re all doing well based on the imaging studies that we’ve obtained so far, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Heisel. “The bone is, for lack of a better term, crunched and it’s something that first and foremost we’ve got to get some of the edema or some of the blood out of the bone and that is something that is a time phenomenon as much as anything.  And then we have a lot of work to do from a physical therapy standpoint.  That days that Aric is not available to move around because of the pain and because of the guarding are days that he’s not using those muscles fully and we’re going to have to rehabilitate those.  So there’s definitively some physical therapy to come.  We want to deal with the acute pain phase first and foremost.  Aric alluded to the brace and this is a fracture that we don’t need a brace in this case because his rib cage effectively works as a brace.  The term that we use is the rib cage works effectively as an external fixation device because it connects to the spine and connects to the sternum, so the location of it as well also facilitates the healing close to the heart and close to the lungs.”

For Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM), the process of working to find a replacement driver for the duration of Almirola’s absences is still “a work in progress”, according to Brian Moffitt, Chief Executive Officer for RPM. 

“We’re working with our partners.  The process was we wanted to make sure that Aric was OK when this happened.  Our worries were for him and what the future was gonna be and Janice and the kids.  We were mainly concerned about Aric when it happened.  We have a protocol that we go by and having Aric and Janice and all of our thoughts and prayers were first and foremost,” said Moffitt. “The process that we had was when we got back to North Carolina the King and Drew and Aric and I sat down and came up with a list of people after we knew what the diagnosis was and we’re still working through that with our partners.  As soon as we know for the future we’ll be letting you guys know that, but right now we’re thrilled that Regan’s going to be in the car for this weekend.”

Moffitt mentioned that the team wanted a “Cup driver for this situation and Regan stepped in and we feel like he’s gonna bring the car home safe and consistency is what we were looking for and he has that type of record.  He has that type of record.  He drives a lot like Aric and that’s what helped us come to this conclusion.”

This week has been a whirlwind for Regan Smith.  Smith received a call from RPM on Wednesday morning asking if he would be able to drive the car this weekend. Smith quickly responded with “absolutely” before getting everything ready for this weekend.

“I’m focused on this weekend right now and we’re going to do the best we can for their partners and for their team this weekend and see how things progress going forward, but I’m gonna focus on this weekend and do a good job for them this weekend,” said Smith outside the hauler.

 Smith has numerous experiences as a replacement driver. Smith has replaced Stewart, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Kyle Larson before this weekend. Although he does not have a full time ride in Cup, Smith runs in the Camping World Truck Series for RBR Enterprises. Smith has 211 starts in Cup with one win, four top-five finishes, and 13 top-10’s.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the fifth points event of the 2017 season in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200. The race will be broken into two stages of 40 laps and a final stage of 54 laps.

34 drivers arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway to compete for 32 spots on Friday night. The only Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver competing in the race will be Kyle Busch, last week’s winner from Kansas Speedway.

This will be the 15th event for the Truck series at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Eight different drivers have won the pole position for the race. Only seven different drivers have won the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 with only three races being won from the pole position. Kasey Kane was the last driver to win from the pole back in 2015. In 2016, Matt Crafton set the race record at 141.855 mph. The qualifying record was set by Busch at 183.773 mph back in 2014.

Charlotte Motor Speedway is 1.5-miles in length. The corners are banked at 24 degrees, while the straightaways are banked at five degrees.

Coming off of potential victory at Kansas Speedway last weekend, Ben Rhodes is ready for this weekend in Charlotte and has moved on from last weekend.

"Yes, we've moved on from Kansas. You have to move forward if you expect to win a race. We are actually having fun with it now. My crew chief has taken the 'debris' that went through the radiator and made a necklace out of it,” said Rhodes, “He says it will be our good luck charm at Charlotte. Last week we proved that what we learned at the Charlotte test, all the hard work we put in, is enough to win a race with our Safelite Tundra. We plan to do just that at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday night."

After running a test at Charlotte a couple weeks ago, Noah Gragson is ready for this weekend.

"Charlotte is a tough place to get around so the biggest thing we worked on was getting him comfortable,” said Gragson. “It took a bit to get him comfortable at the start of test, but by the time we left at night he had a really good feel for it. He knew exactly what line to run, so the biggest thing we'll need to work on this weekend is getting him in traffic."

Grant Enfinger is more than excited to be racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend.

"I'm definitely pumped about racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week. We had a great test session a couple weeks ago. I've lived in the Charlotte area now for 10 years, but this will be my first time racing at Charlotte since I used to race legend cars back in the day there,” said Enfinger. “This is Champion Power Equipment's first race of the year, so they'll be camping out and having a great time cheering us on. I'm looking forward to an exciting race weekend."

In the two practice session of the weekend, Christopher Bell and Gragson topped the charts. Bell posted a speed of 182.039 mph in the first session, while Gragson posted a speed at 181.194 mph in the second session.

Teams will qualify on Friday at 4:45 p.m. EST, and race shortly after 8:30 p.m. EST. The North Carolina Education Lottery 200 will be broadcasted live on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Monster Energy All-Star Race, a non-points event. With it being the 25th Anniversary of “One Hot Night”, the first night race on a track bigger than a mile in length, drivers will race under a similar format of 70 laps. The race will be broken into three 20 lap segments with a final 10 lap segment.

However, there are a couple catches when it comes to the final segments. Only 10 drivers will be eligible to compete in the final stage! Who are they? Drivers who win in the first three segments will be able to race in the final segment, if they stay on the lead lap. The remaining seven positions will be filled with drivers who have the best average finish through the three rounds. All these drivers will have the option to pit before the final stage.

The second catch in this race is the use of a “softer” tire. Goodyear will allot only one set of the softer tire to be used at the discretion of the teams. If a team decides to put on the softer tire for the final segment, they will start behind the driver’s who took the normal tire. The softer tire provides more grip on the track, which results in more speed. The “option” tire will be used to call the softer tire, while “prime” will be used for the normal tire. Teams will be allotted for the All-Star race eight sets of primes and two sets of option tires. For Open drivers, they will receive five prime tires and one set of option tires. If the teams transfer, they will receive an additional two sets of prime tires and one set of options. Teams in the All-Star race will have three sets of prime tires and one set of option tires for the event,

The Monster Energy Open will consist three segments: two 20 lap segments and a 10 lap segment. The winner of each of the stages will transfer into the All-Star Race.

Qualifying for the All-Star Race will move to Friday, while the Monster Energy Open will move to Saturday night before the All-Star race. Qualifying for the All-Star race will continue to feature the “no speed limit” four tire pit stop. Teams will take three laps with one of the laps where a pit stop occurs with no speed limit on pit road. The fastest five drivers will move onto a second round where they will do the same thing as the first round. The pit crew that has the quickest time will receive the Pit Crew Competition Award.

Drivers who are in the Open will  have two rounds of qualifying. The first round will be 20 minutes long with the fastest eight drivers moving to the second round of only five minutes long.

Who races in the All-Star race? Drivers who won a points event in either 2016 or 2017, drivers who won a Monster Energy Series All-Star Race and compete fulltime, and drivers who won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete full-time are eligible to race.

Drivers who have already clinched an All-Star spot: Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Martin Truex Jr.

Following his accident at Kansas Speedway on lap 199, Aric Almirola will be out for the weekend. Regan Smith was announced as the replacement driver for this weekend. The team has yet to announce any additional plans on replacement drivers.

Drivers are excited to return to Charlotte Motor Speedway to kick-off a couple weeks at home and “10 Days of Thunder” with the All-Star event.

“The All-Star Race is always a special one.  There’s always a lot of excitement with it as well.  I can remember the year that we won the race and just how much fun that was and it’s a win that everyone definitely wants to be a part of.  The goal will be to make it into the final ten cars for the last 10-lap Stage in order to go for the win Saturdaynight.  I’ve always liked coming to Charlotte because it’s certainly the track that I have the most miles on and the most races at,” says Matt Kenseth. “It’s a great track and one that you always look forward to being there for a couple weeks for in May since it’s a fun few weeks with the All-Star Race and the  (Coca-Cola) 600.  It’s always exciting to be able to race for a million dollars in the All-Star Race.  It’s an honor to be able to compete in that race and I can remember not being in it and having to fight to qualify into it, and it’s always a letdown if you don’t make it into that race.”

“This is the first time we have been locked into the All-Star race. I definitely think the All-Star race will be interesting for all the fans, with NASCAR giving us the softer tire option. Qualifying is unique as well. I remember last year standing on pit-road watching them practice the pit-stop portion with no pit-road speed and that was crazy. We have nothing to lose here besides to go out and win the million,” said Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who locked his spot in the event with his win at Talladega Superspeedway.

"It's definitely going to be an interesting couple of days! Our mile and a half program has been very strong this year, but it will be very tough to race our way into this race because there are still a lot of big teams competing in the Monster Energy Open race. We're definitely hoping to win the All-Star fan vote to secure a spot, and then focus on racing our way in after. Just to be part of this weekend is really cool, and I'm excited to represent the Reddit community throughout it,” said Matt DiBenedetto. DiBenedetto has used social media to promote himself in an effort to receive the fan vote to make the All-Star event.

Teams in the All-Star event will have a two distinct practice sessions on Friday, May 19th. The first practice session will be a normal practice session beginning at

1:00 p.m. EST, and will have a pit stop practice session beginning at 2:10 p.m. EST. Open drivers will have one practice session on May 19th beginning at 3:00 p.m. EST. All-Star qualifying will begin at 7:30 p.m. EST. Open qualifying will be held on Saturday, May 20th at 4:35 p.m. EST. The Open will go green shortly after 6:00 p.m. EST, while the All-Star Race will go green shortly after 8:00 p.m. EST.

Fire up the scanners. It is time for Crew Chatter in 2017. In this weeks edition, Speedway Digest Staff tackles the question, “What are your thoughts on NASCAR’s Big Announcement?”

 

Brett Winningham

I think the new format will bring a lot of excitement to the sport. Drivers, as Steve O'Donnell emphasized, will have to battle all throughout the season for the grand-prize at the end of the year. It is no longer a win at Daytona in February and a test n' tune till the beginning of the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway like in the past. 

The fans have wanted something that awards drivers all throughout the year and they got it. I think this will be very fun and exciting. 

 

Davey Segal

Although I went into Monday's announcement with great skepticism and nerves, I came out of it with clarity and happiness. Although everyone (drivers, fans, media members, etc) are still trying to wrap their heads around this new staged-race format, I think that it would be wildly successful. NASCAR might've hit the jackpot.

I myself don't quite yet understand all the nuances of the format, but that will come to me (and all of us) in due time. The segments act as debris cautions, but points are awarded. And the fact that points will be awarded make drivers race harder, because early portions of the race actually mean something, which they haven't in years.

Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin said it themselves. We are going to see the best racing that we have in years. And gosh, I hope they're right. I'm looking forward to seeing how this new format plays out in 2017. If it goes well, Monday January 23, 2017 will go down in history as the day NASCAR changed forever, for the better.

 

Katie Williams

NASCAR couldn't please everyone but a change was needed. Things were getting dull. Fans, especially old-school fans, just don't like change.

I don't think the 'stage' format is a bad one by any means but I have to see it in motion to understand it a little better. One thing, for the drivers, there will be no more laying back and every race will count, no more 'We're in the Chase (playoffs), we can go into testing mode'. This might also mean more pressure on them but who knows.

There are still a few things I'm fuzzy on but it's only day one of this news. What if one of the stages ends up in a 'big one'? We all remember the scoring fiasco during Martinsville last fall. I'm not saying it will happen but it could. We'll just see how this all pans out. After Daytona, hopefully, things will be more clear.

No more 'Chase'. I'm fine with calling it the 'playoffs'. On the other hand, the word 'Chase' was unique because all stick-and-ball sports, even my other sport of rodeo, called it the 'playoffs'.

I welcome the change. Motorsports had to roll with the times and if this was the way to do it, so be it.

 

Caleb Whisler

The fans spoke and NASCAR listened with this new format. Sitting in the room when the announcement was made, I was frustrated and confused with this format. After the hustle and bustle of the announcement, I found clarity with why the decisions were made, to make the on-track product better.

Mr. O’Donnell said it best to not get into the muck and mire of trying to figure out the points. Bonus points are gone. The only bonus points awarded will be “playoff points” for wins in segments and the overall wins.

At the end of the day fans win! TV experts and researches have determined that fans will be able to see 20 percent more “green-flag” laps. This will also allow fans who are at the track to know that at Lap X, there will be a break in the action so they will not miss the racing product. Every single lap will mean something.

Change is not something that many people are receptive to. If motorsports foes not evolve, it will become extinct. This was not a Monster Energy decision, but an industry decision. You have to change in order to stay relevant. If this change works, January 23, 2017, will be on for the NASCAR history book.

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