Kyle Busch pressed his way to the front of the pack to win his first Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. The driver shot to the lead at the start of the final 10-lap shootout and never looked back. For Busch, the win marked his first victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a Cup Series car.
Unfortunately for the former NASCAR champion, his monumental victory has been overshadowed by a nagging issue that has plagued drivers for years at Charlotte Motor Speedway – passing, or lack thereof.
In what may be come to known as the least exciting all-star race, only four drivers led the entire 70-lap event, with the only in-race lead change coming via a pit stop. Pole sitter Kyle Larson led all 40 laps of the first two 20-lap segments. Third segment winner Jimmie Johnson led 19 of those 20 laps, with Ryan Blaney leading the other lap.
NASCAR and Goodyear officials hoped to remedy the lack of passing with the introduction of a new tire package called option tires. Motorsport noted that, midway through last season, NASCAR and Goodyear officials met to discuss the possibility of developing a new tire. The two organizations set a date to debut the new softer tire, called an option tire – this weekend’s All-Star Race.
— Goodyear Racing (@GoodyearRacing) May 19, 2017
The tires were designed to be faster than traditional prime tires. However, no driver was able to capitalize on the tires’ speed advantage to challenge for the lead. During practice, drivers complained that the experimental tires fell off faster than the traditional tires, which made passing nearly impossible.
Following the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson spoke with Fox Sports about the lack of passing during the event.
“We all run the same speed. You can’t pass running the same speed. It’s just the bottom line.”
On garage chatter that some drivers would like to see the race moved from the 1.5-mile speedway to a shorter track, like Bristol or Richmond, Johnson was torn. A four-time All-Star Race winner at Charlotte, Johnson said that the track had been good to him, but that he understood why holding the race at a track like Bristol could be exciting for fans.
— Scott McCann (@ScottMcCann42) May 21, 2017
During other post-race interviews with Fox Sports, several drivers indicated they liked the option tires but admitted that changes needed to be made. Race winner Busch said, while he felt he ran good on the option tires, he “saw a couple guys kind of faded on the option tire.”
Larson said that he thought the tire package was a good thing.
“I think in the future maybe they could bring a tire that has even more grip and more of a speed and lap time difference that we can visually kind of see that there is a difference. But I thought it was good.”
However, as segment leaders, each of these drivers benefited from clean air.
NASCAR and race track officials had hoped that this weekend’s race, the 25th anniversary of One Hot Night, would recapture some of the magic of a race that is deeply embedded in NASCAR lore.
On May 16, 1992, NASCAR held its first all-star race, then called The Winston, under the lights. Known as One Hot Night, fans withstood temperatures that climbed to almost 83 degrees. As the race wound down, excitement abounded.
On the final lap, Dale Earnhardt, who had been in a battle with Kyle Petty for the lead, lost control of his car, spun, and made contact with the wall. In all of the commotion, Davey Allison pulled up next to the Petty machine. The two exchanged several licks as they approached the start-finish line. As Allison took the checkered flag, the two tangled again and Allison’s car hit the wall and slid down the track into Turn 1. The winner was knocked unconscious and had to be excavated from his car. He never made it to Victory Lane, instead, he spent the night in a local hospital.
The ending of the 1992 Winston is considered the greatest ending to any all-star race in NASCAR history.
Drivers will get another chance to conquer passing, while Kyle Busch will go for the sweep, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Called the longest day in racing, the Coca-Cola 600 takes place next Sunday, following the Indianapolis 500.
Take a bow. Or two. pic.twitter.com/jaIIl4kmjf
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 21, 2017
Did you watch the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race? Would you change anything about the race’s format?
[Featured Image by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images]