We are halfway through the 2018 regular season, and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will take a break from points racing this weekend to run the All-Star Race. The four-stage, 80-lap will take place Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway with the winner taking home $1 million.
There are currently 17 drivers qualified for the main event, but four more will be added over the course of the night. The Monster Energy Open will be held prior to the All-Star Race, and the winners of all three stages of the qualifying race will transfer into the main event. There will also be one final driver who will be voted in by the fans, leaving a 21-car field when all is said and done.
In addition to the smaller field, and modified format, this year’s All-Star Race will also feature a new aero package. It is a restrictor-plate-based package in the mold of the one used at Indianapolis last year for the XFINITY Series race, and NASCAR’s hope is that it will keep the field bunched together and make passing easier. Driver eliminations and mandatory pit stops might be gone, but this rules package could be the biggest curveball this event has ever seen.
Personally, I’m not a fan of plate racing in general, and I don’t like trying to manufacturer drama by slowing cars down and trying to make everyone run the same speed. That being said, I don’t blame NASCAR for trying something new in an event that doesn’t directly impact the championship. At this point, I’d be happy with anything that can bring fans back to the sport, even if it means settling for a brand of racing that isn’t my personal favorite.
From a fantasy standpoint, most season-long formats don’t include the All-Star Race in their schedules, but in case you are playing Fantasy NASCAR this weekend, I’ve ranked the 17 drivers currently locked into the field.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer, Stewart-Haas Racing
I’m not sure what to expect from the rules packages being used this weekend, but I do know that Harvick has been the man to beat at 1.5-mile ovals this year, and he been one of the best at Charlotte. With a ton of unknowns to deal with, I’ll take my chances with the best driver in the series right now.
Martin Truex, Jr., #78 Furniture Row, Furniture Row Racing
Truex hasn’t been dominating the 1.5-mile tracks like he has the past two seasons, but he still has three Top 5s in four races. He has also been excellent at Charlotte, picking up two wins and five Top 5s in the last six races and leading more than 90 laps four times in that span.
Kyle Busch, #18 M&M’s, Joe Gibbs Racing
He is the defending winner of the All-Star Race, albeit under different rules, and Busch has been stout at the 1.5-mile ovals all year. His 5.0 average finish in the first four races ranks second in the series, and he is one of three drivers with Top 10s in all four of those races.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske
Logano has finished outside the Top 20 in his last three starts at Charlotte, but he has been a new man at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2018. Through four races, he has compiled a 5.5 average finish and hasn’t finished worse than seventh. His restrictor-plate prowess could also come into play with this rules package.
Ryan Blaney, #12 Menards/PPG, Team Penske
He has been one the fastest drivers at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, picking up Top 5s at Las Vegas and Texas and leading 54 laps at Kansas last weekend before his wreck in the closing laps. Blaney picked up a Top 10 at Charlotte last fall, and he’s shown even more speed in his first season with Team Penske.