Bowyer Wins Open Pole

Saturday, May 20

CONCORD, N.C— Clint Bowyer will start from the pole in today’s Monster Energy Open from Charlotte Motor Speedway. This is Bowyer’s first career open pole

 

In the first round of qualifying, Bowyer posted the fastest speed at 188.765 mph. Ryan Blaney was second fastest at 188.646 mph. Erik Jones was third fastest at 188.627 mph. Chase Elliott was fourth fastest at 188.107 mph. Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five by posting a speed of 186.961 mph in the final moments of the opening round. Danica Patrick was in contention to make the top-eight with a speed of 184.427 mph, but the speed of A. Dillon bumped her out of that final round.  Michael McDowell and Reed Sorenson were the only two drivers who did not post a speed in qualifying.

 

The second round of qualifying went green, but the caution flew do to a rogue golf cart going onto the racing surface. Bowyer posted the fastest speed at 189.474 mph. Blaney will start second with his speed of 188.009 mph. Elliott will start third with his speed of 187.859 mph. A. Dillon will start fourth with a speed of 187.487 mph. AJ Allmendinger will start fifth with his speed of 187.285 mph.

 

The Monster Energy open will be live on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network at 6:00 p.m. EST.

CONCORD, N.C.— After the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with the help of Goodyear, NASCAR, and Speedway Motorsports Inc. officials, Michael Waltrip was able to take laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway to test the difference between the “prime” and “option” tire being used in the Monster Energy All-Star Race on Saturday night. Waltrip ran one lap at speed on the “prime” tire and multiple laps on  the “option” tires.

 

Goodyear has allocated teams in the All-Star race the use on one set of the “option” tires to be used on Saturday night. The option tire is a softer tire compound compared to the prime tire. The addition of this tire allows for strategy to be played during the race. If teams choose to use the option tire for the final segment, they will start behind those who took the primary tire.

 

Goodyear officials believe the option tire will be a half a second faster than the primary tires. However, they will fall-off within a few laps.

 

When Waltrip ran laps after practice, he explained the difference he could tell with the tires.

 

“The difference was how much harder could I run because it’s not set up like our cars Saturday night, for sure. When it hit bumps on the primary, it chattered across them. I wasn’t going to spin out. I ran through the bumps under control. When we put those (option) on, I was able to go across the same bumps, feel the same uneasy feeling, but no chatter. You could feel the same bumps, but the tires didn’t let the car go out from underneath me,” said Waltrip.

 

Waltrip was unable to feel tire fall off, but believes drivers will feel a fall off within six laps from running at speed.

 

“I didn’t run enough laps. I don’t think I could get them to with the speed I was running. They’re going to be going 20 to 30 mph faster in the corner. They’ll go away  in a hurry, you can guarantee that. I think they will be perfect for six to eight laps then you hang on. Hopefully you have a gap if you are able to use them in a timely fashion and take advantage of them,” said Waltrip.

 

Although his laps were not at the speed drivers will be running, Waltirp could tell the difference in the tires.

 

“There is definitely more grip in these tires. You can run as fast on the primary for one lap as you could on the optional because they’re new. after a couple laps, the greens will still go fast and then fall off. Then it’ll switch,” said Waltrip. “The optionals will wear out and the primary’s will have more longevity. I can’y wait to see what they do.”

 

During practice, Ryan Newman ran 10 consecutive laps on the “option” tire. Based on the calculations of Speedway Digest, Newman was 5.702 mph slower than when he first started. During the only practice session of the weekend, Kyle Busch used the “option” tire to practice entering onto pit road, which will have no speed limit for qualifying. Speculation arose that Ky. Busch did so to help simulate conditions during qualifying.

 

After practice, Stu Grant, General Manager for Goodyear, was made available to talk about what Goodyear saw during the practice session.  Grant stated that Goodyear saw a steeper curve on the falloff for the “option” tire compared to the prime, “It looked to me that the rate of falloff was higher on the option tire. It seemed to fall off on a regular lap by lap basis although it was a little more of a falloff than the prime.”

 

Goodyear and NASCAR began discussion about using a softer tire began last season in September.

 

“We have obviously had that discussion with NASCAR. If you go back to the original discussion we had with NASCAR about this whole option tire scenario. It was a conversation we had with them back in September of last year. Our reaction was, ‘Let’s come back to you with questions. What’s our objective? What are we trying to accomplish? What are we going to run?’, a whole series of questions. The bottom line is we are going to go ahead and see what will happen tomorrow night and then have some additional discusions with NASCAR to see if that is what they are wanting to do. But, an option with more grip in a points race that has to last a gas stop is a whole different discussion than one that lasts 20 laps.”

 

When asked about what the option tire would do after it heats and then cools, Grant was quick to answer. “I think the performance in this situation will be similar to the prime. You will see similar type of falloff,” said Grant.

 

With three sets of primary and one set of option tires, teams do have the option to not use the “option” tire. “You can do that. You only have three sticker sets of prime and one option. So, you would need to run your prime setup for two segments,” said Grant.

 

As the weekend progresses, teams will be strategizing when the best time would be to use the optional tire during the Monster Energy All-Star Race. The race will be broadcasted on Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1 at 8:00 p.m. EST tonight.

 

 

 

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 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.