There will be a lot of talk this week about the changes for the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
An event with as much tradition as the All-Star Race will see something new this year – restrictor plates. Used only at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway or Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, the plates will be coming to the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval Saturday night.
Restrictor plates were actually used somewhere other than a superspeedway – New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon – on Sept. 17, 2000, when Jeff Burton led all 300 laps en route to victory. One week later at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, a young Kurt Busch made his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut.
In addition to the restrictor plate at Charlotte Saturday night, racecars will also sport a 6-inch high spoiler with two 12-inch “ears,” a 2014-style splitter up front, and aero ducts.
There will also be a format change for Saturday night’s non-points feature event that is expected to make things thrilling for drivers and fans. But, for Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy Ford Fusion, it all means a lot more.
For starters, he is sponsored by Monster Energy and there would be no better reward that winning the Monster Energy All-Star Race. Secondly, the victor takes home a cool $1 million. Thirdly, Busch simply would just like the trophy.
Busch has won exhibition races before, including the All-Star Race at Charlotte, and two events at Daytona – the Can-Am Duels that set the starting field for the Daytona 500, and The Clash, which is the non-points race that kicks off the season there each year.
Both of Busch’s wins at Daytona came in 2011. His win in The Clash came after he swept past Ryan Newman off the final turn, thanks to drafting help from Jamie McMurray. In claiming the checkered flag, he became the 19th different winner of the event that began in 1979. Although it wasn’t a points-paying win, it was the first restrictor-plate victory of Busch’s career. Five days later, Busch again drove into victory lane, this time in the first Can-Am Duel. He started sixth and drafted with Regan Smith all afternoon en route to the win.
Busch would love nothing more than to score another All-Star victory. It would certainly lead to a “Monster” of a party in victory lane.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How important is the Monster Energy All-Star Race?
“A little added pressure with Monster being the title sponsor. I’ve been with them the last seven years doing different things with their brand and them doing different things with me and the racecar. We have a lot of fun together. It’s one of those marquee events that I need to perform in. I go there with as much motivation as possible. The team has built a completely different car for this event. And then there are rule changes. This time around, I hope we can get the group around NASCAR, the TV people, the drivers, everybody, to get the fans excited. Hopefully as excited as that hot summer night years ago because that’s how different this rules package is going to be. It’s going to be pretty wild to see how it all plays out. I know at Stewart-Haas we built different cars and we’re going into this weekend with so much more to learn.”
How are the restrictor plates going to be at Charlotte?
“It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to box us all in like we’re at a superspeedway, but we’re at a mile-and-a-half. So, are guys going to be shoving into a three-wide hole when they know they can’t get out of it? That’s going to be the question.”
What does it mean to you to be in the All-Star Race?
“It’s a who’s who of the Cup Series. It’s a big honor to be included in that race. Those are the winners, the top percent of our sport. To win that race in 2010 was a special moment. To beat the best of the best, and then to receive a check for $1 million, that’s a great feeling.”
Talk about winning the event in 2010. What do you remember about that race? And what would it mean to you to win another one?
“The weekend was perfect. The car unloaded fast. We had an excellent pit stop during our run. We won the pole and it seemed like, in the race, we were the ones dictating what everyone else had to do because of the pace we set. That all starts with the trends that you’ve learned in the beginning of the season. That’s what is different about the All-Star Race and The Clash in Daytona. At Daytona, you’re coming off the offseason, there’s the buildup and excitement for another season and seeing what you’ve got. The All-Star Race is taking what you’ve learned in the first part of the year, applying that and trying to cash in on a big payday.”