Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
All-Star Glory Favors Youth
Dating back to the early 2000s, young drivers have excelled in the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman claimed the million dollar prize as rookies in 2000 and 2002 respectively. Jimmie Johnson then won in 2003 during his second full-time year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
With a wave of young talent making headways in the sport this season, the new generation of competitors could replicate the All-Star Race success the veterans experienced early in their careers.
Joey Logano captured his first victory in the event last May. The 25-year-old faced stiff competition from Kyle Larson after the Chip Ganassi Racing driver narrowly edged out Chase Elliott in the Open to advance.
Larson led 18 laps in the race and broke away early in the final ten, but a loose car resulted in contact with the wall and allowed Logano to catch and pass him before the finish.
After scoring his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory last August at Michigan, Larson is locked into Saturday night’s event and will eye redemption.
By winning at Talladega earlier this month, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is among the 16 drivers ready to compete. This will be his second start after advancing from the Open and finishing 16th in 2013.
Roush Fenway Racing has shown additional speed this season, but they will need to translate it to their intermediate program to search for a fifth All-Star victory.
Many rising stars will also look to race in through the Monster Energy Open.
After finishing second in the Final Stage of last year’s Open, Chase Elliott became eligible by taking one of the two fan vote awards up for grabs.
He will have to race his way in or win the fan vote if he hopes to battle for another top-10 finish in the main event after finishing sixth last year.
While the Hendrick Motorsports driver has placed outside the top-20 in the last three races, he finished in the top-five in the first three mile-and-a-half events of the season. A fifth-place at Atlanta, third at Las Vegas, and ninth at Texas demonstrated his ability to run well at tracks similar to Charlotte which could yield similar results on Saturday night.
Ryan Blaney came within two positions of claiming a spot in the race last year after finishing third in the Open.
The Wood Brothers Racing driver has excelled at 1.5-mile facilities this season, dominating at both Texas and Kansas by leading 148 and 83 laps in each race respectively. Carrying momentum from his fourth-place run at Kansas will also play into his favor this weekend.
If these young competitors perform well on Saturday night, it won’t be a surprise. All have shown improvement from last year through the first 11 races of the season and can now showcase their skills on one of the biggest stages in the sport as they compete for the one-million-dollar prize.
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz
EMAIL JASON AT firstname.lastname@example.org
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.