Monster Energy All-Star Race
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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series takes a break from regular season action this weekend, but that doesn't mean a break from racing. The Monster Energy All-Star Race is set for Saturday night, and a $1 million prize awaits the winner.
There are 16 drivers currently, locked into the field, but as many as four more will be added Saturday night. The Monster Energy Open will be held prior to the All-Star Race and provide drivers with another chance to make the main event. The Open will feature three segments for a total of 50 laps, and the winner of each segment will earn a spot in the field. The final spot in the field will go to the winner of a fan vote.
The format of the event often changes, and this year is no exception. The 2017 event will feature stages of 20 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps. The field will be cut down to 10 drivers prior to the final segment, with the spots in the field going to the winners of each of the first three stages and the drivers with the best average finish in the first three stages.
Prior to the final segment, drivers will be lined up based on average finish ahead of an optional pit stop with one huge exception. Each team is going to be given one set of softer tires. These tires will have more grip and more speed, but the fall off will be quick. Drivers that chose to put on these tires before the start of the final segment will have to start behind any drivers who chose to put on regular tires.
Needless to say, there will be a lot of strategy in play Saturday night, and I wouldn't be surprised if an inventive strategy ends up putting a surprise driver in victory lane.
The Yahoo game doesn't include the All-Star Race in its scoring, but if you play in a fantasy league that does include the event, I've ranked the drivers who are already guaranteed to be in the field. That being said, there could be some serious contenders who add their name to the mix in the Open, including Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Clint Bowyer. In the meantime, here is how I have the field stacking up.
1. BRAD KESELOWSKI, #2 MILLER LITE, TEAM PENSKE [YAHOO CLASS A]
Although Keselowski has yet to win an All-Star Race, he was runner-up in the event last year for the second time in his career. More importantly, the No. 2 bunch is probably the best at coming up with inventive strategies, and that should come in handy with NASCAR introducing a brand new format to the event.
2. JIMMIE JOHNSON, #48 LOWE'S/KOBALT TOOLS, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS [YAHOO CLASS A]
Johnson has been a stud at Charlotte throughout his career, winning eight times in addition to winning the All-Star Race a record four times. He also has Chad Knaus calling the shots, so I'm pretty sure the new format won't be too much of a curveball.
3. KEVIN HARVICK, #4 JIMMY JOHNS, STEWART-HAAS RACING [YAHOO CLASS A]
Harvick has been dialed at Charlotte in recent years. He has finished either first or second in five of his last seven regular season races here, and he has finished second in two of the last three All-Star events. He always seems to show up on the big stages, so look for Harvick to be in the mix Saturday night.
4. MARTIN TRUEX, JR., #78 FURNITURE ROW, FURNITURE ROW RACING [YAHOO CLASS A]
His domination of the 1.5-mile tracks continued last weekend with a win at Kansas, and Truex absolutely crushed the field at Charlotte last May, leading 392 of the 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600. I like his chances this weekend.
5. JOEY LOGANO, #22 SHELL-PENNZOIL, TEAM PENSKE [YAHOO CLASS A]
Team Penske cars have been fast all year, and Logano has always been stout at Charlotte. He is the defending winner of the All-Star Race, and he has three Top 3 finishes in five starts in the event. Logano also won the fall race at the track in 2015.
6. KYLE LARSON, #42 TARGET, CHIP GANASSI RACING [YAHOO CLASS B]
He made his All-Star Race debut last year and finished 16th, but Larson has been a new man in 2017. He finished a career-best fifth at Charlotte last fall, and he has a ridiculous 3.0 average finish in four races at 1.5-mile tracks this year. Expect his second All-Star appearance to go a whole lot better than the first.
7. KYLE BUSCH, #18 M&M'S, JOE GIBBS RACING [YAHOO CLASS A]
Although Joe Gibbs Racing has lacked elite speed for most of this season, Busch has still managed to lead a lot of laps, in large part because of his short-run speed. The All-Star Race will be run in a series of shorter segments, which could play into his favor. I like him as a sleeper for the win.
8. JAMIE MCMURRAY, #1 MCDONALD'S/CESSNA, CHIP GANASSI RACING [YAHOO CLASS B]
Don't underestimate McMurray in a big race. After all, the guy has won the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the All-Star Race. He has also finished in the Top 10 in all four races at 1.5-mile tracks this year.
9. MATT KENSETH, #20 DEWALT, JOE GIBBS RACING [YAHOO CLASS A]
Kenseth has always been solid at Charlotte. He has won an All-Star Race and has won at the track in the regular season. He also owns an impressive 6.9 average finish in the All-Star Race, so he is one of the safer bets to crack the Top 10 Saturday night.
10. DENNY HAMLIN, #11 FEDEX, JOE GIBBS RACING [YAHOO CLASS A]
He is in the middle of the best stretch of his career at Charlotte. He has eight Top 10s in his last 10 starts at the track, including five Top 5s. He also has four straight Top 10s in the All-Star Race, including a win in 2015. It has been an up-and-down start to the year for Hamlin, but he could be a surprise contender.