In recent years, the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway has provided an unimpressive racing product. In Jeff Gluck’s ‘Was It A Good Race?’ poll, the 2016 and 2017 races rank among the worst, the latter receiving a positive vote of just 18 percent. For the 2018 race, NASCAR will reportedly attempt to experiment with something new: the introduction of restrictor plates.
On the 9 April edition of the Door, Bumper, Clear podcast, spotters and hosts T.J. Majors (for Joey Logano) and Brett Griffin (for Clint Bowyer) broke the news. An announcement by NASCAR has yet to be made.
“They’re gonna knock like 250 horsepower off,” Griffin stated. “Top speed was gonna be around 170 miles an hour.”
The package will be similar to the one used by the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Restrictor plates, which are typically used at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, were introduced for the Indianapolis race in 2017. Won by William Byron, the race proved to be more eventful than its past editions.
However, this has also raised questions. The purpose of restrictor plates is to prevent cars from going too fast and leading to large crashes, but they also bunch the cars together into packs. Although this has led to the plate races being among the most popular on the NASCAR circuit due to the close action, it also increases the likelihood of multi-car wrecks. Worries of the “Big One” and driver safety have sparked debate among fans and media over whether or not plate racing should continue.
While the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway is not a superspeedway like Daytona and Talladega, the rumors of adding plates to the All-Star Race have also resulted in skepticism over the resulting pack racing. Griffin expressed his worry that if the package is a success, NASCAR would potentially add plates to other races on the schedule, resulting in regular pack racing outside of the superspeedways.
“Let me just tell you this: if they’re trying to accomplish pack racing at mile-and-a-halfs, you’re getting ready to see a bunch of guys retire,” Griffin commented. “Everybody over 35 years old is gonna go, ‘Hey, I’m done. I’ve made my money, I’ve had my fun, I’m not pack racing every week, I’m out.'”
“It’s a science experiment is my opinion, and if it goes well and if it’s entertaining, then they’ll go back and consider adding it. […] They’re not doing it just to make it entertaining.”
Majors was more positive about using the plates, provided it only applied to the All-Star Race:
“I might be okay if it’s just the All-Star Race. It’s a separate race. I would like to see these guys all, without going to Talladega or Daytona, I want to see these guys race hard. I don’t want to see the guy that has the best car all year go in and just dominate the All-Star Race. I wanna see these guys line up in close to equal cars and race it out.”
He compared the leveled playing field to an International Race of Champions (IROC) event. From 1974 to 2006, IROC featured twelve drivers in identical cars across a variety of series racing on tracks that included Charlotte and Daytona.
“I think that’s kind of cool, and if you can do that and somehow make it exciting, that might give the All-Star Race a bit of a bump here. […] To me, you’re gonna earn it. This isn’t about the best guy with the best car all year long. It’s not the fastest guy. I want to see these guys line up and know, ‘Man, I gotta beat this guy straight up now.’ Like more driver vs. driver.”
It would not the first time NASCAR has experimented for the All-Star Race. The race format has been changed various times with suggestions from drivers, while the 2017 edition also saw the introduction of an “option” tire. While the green tires were faster than the standard “prime” tires, drivers who swapped to them for the race’s final segment were required to start at the rear of the field. These changes have resulted in mixed reviews from drivers, and as exhibited by Gluck’s poll, fan reception continues to be lukewarm.
The 2018 Monster Energy All-Star Race will take place on 19 May.