Saturday night’s $1 million-to-win Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway promises to be one of the most exciting events on the calendar.
A total of 20 drivers will race for the big prize, with four segments, 70 laps total and for the first time, two different choices of tires.
Sixteen drivers are already locked into the field: 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.
The final four starting spots will be determined in the Monster Energy Open, which precedes the all-star event. The Open will be 50 laps in three stages of 20, 20 and 10 laps. The winner of each of the three stages will advance to the all-star race, as will the winner of the Monster Energy Fan Vote.
A total of 24 drivers are entered in the Open. Here’s my bet on which four will advance:
Back in first-rate equipment now that he’s with Stewart-Haas Racing, Bowyer has been good all year, with a best finish of second at Bristol. Saturday night could be his night, as the veteran seeks his first Cup win since 2012.
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Roush Fenway Racing might be the most improved team in the sport this year, as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. already has won a race and he and Bayne both are running much better. And let’s not forger, last year Bayne won the first stage of the Open and finished third in the final stage.
All season long, the Wood Brothers have prepared fast Fords for Blaney, who last weekend qualified on the pole and finished fourth at Kansas. Last year in this race, Blaney qualified third and finished fifth. He will be up front at some point in this race.
Elliott might be the only driver in this group who has a realistic chance at advancing either via the fan vote or by winning one of the three stages. Last year, Elliott qualified on the pole and finished fourth in the Open, but won the fan vote to advance to the all-star race.