All-Star Race Weekend Ends Kyle Busch Charlotte Winless Streak and It was Amazingly Boring!
By Kent Whitaker:
The 2017 Monster Energy All-Star Race is behind us as we move towards the Memorial Day weekend running of the Coca-Cola 600. This year the event took on a different look as Monster Energy threw their band of excitement into the mix.
Pre-race activities included an MMA bout and motorcycles performed tricks for the crowd along the front stretch prior to the race. Fans seemed to like the added vibe. However, the race didn’t quite live up to the added hype.
The new format included some familiar elements – such as a “race your way in” factor for drivers not already qualified, a fan vote, and stage racing. The added mystery of having two tire options helped build some of the expectations as well. However, once things got under way Charlotte Motor Speedway reminded everyone how boring clean air racing can be!
Kyle, Jimmie, and Kyle
Following the race-in stages the field was set for the All-Star race where Kyle Larson jumped out front… and stayed there for the entire 20 lap segment. Then, when segment two was under way… the exact same thing happened.
The only difference for the third segment was that Jimmie Johnson started at the front following the pit stops for segment two. Johnson, just like Larson, stayed out front for almost the entire stage. Both drivers proved that once the leader was in clean air they could basically drive away.
Finally, as the last stage took the green flag, Kyle Busch made a move to take the lead. Things seemed suddenly exciting as Busch reminded people of the famed “pass in the grass” move by Dale Earnhardt Sr when he took the lead during the 1987 All-Star Race called the “Winston.”
In fact, earlier in the evening the move was attempted by driver Erik Jones as he attempted to go three-wide during one of the race-in events. Jones was not too lucky as he tore apart the front-end of his ride when it dug into the infield grass.
Busch started behind Johnson and Brad Keselowski for the final ten-lap shootout. Once the cars came up to speed Busch dove towards the inside below Keselowski where his tires touched the edge of the grass infield. Busch completed the pass, Keselowski’s car wobbled and dropped back as Johnson fell in behind Busch.
As with all of the other segments – when Busch’s car hit clean air he was able to check out from the reast of the remaining drivers. A short time later Busch was celebrating his first Cup Series win at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Even Busch, who would bank a million dollars for the win, knew that the All-Star event lacked the excitement that fans expected.
“It seemed like that was kind of the theme of the night: Once a guy kind of got out front, that was it,” Busch said following his checkered flag at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “It’s frustrating and unfortunate that we didn’t see a whole lot of passes for the lead in green flag conditions.”
What About the Hype of Softer Tires?
One of the big format twists thrown into the mix for the All-Star race was that for the first-time Good Year brought two types of tires. Each team would have an additional “softer” set of tires that they could use at any time during the race. However, if they chose to hold the softer tires until the last shoot-out style stage then they would have to start in the rear.
Some teams chose to use them early – such as Kyle Busch, while other teams decided to use them in the final segment. The result… not really a factor. It may have been if the final segment was longer than ten laps.
That may have given cars with the softer, and faster, tires an opportunity to move past cars towards the front. But, ten laps were not enough. And, as we’ve seen recently at Charlotte – once a car is out front in clean air the chances of catching them from behind is limited. Even with a faster-softer tire.
The Bottom Line: It’s going to be a long night during the Coca-Cola 600 If the All-Star Race of 2017 is an indicator of how the racing will be. But, Kyle Busch earned his first Cup Series victory at a track that’s eluded him. And, he won the Camping World Truck Series race the night before the All-Star event. If there’s one driver that can go on a win streak at any time it’s Kyle Busch. His win may carry over to the 600.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kent Whitaker, often called ‘the Deck Chef,’ is a sportswriter, culinary writer, and cookbook author with fourteen titles. He covers NASCAR, racing in general, Football, barbecue, grilling, and tailgating. You can visit him on The Deck Chef