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MENCS: All-Star Rule Changes Couldn’t Impede Harvick’s Dominance

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CONCORD, NC — Kevin Harvick is unstoppable in 2018, not even an aerodynamic rules package designed to pack cars together could prevent Harvick from his sixth victory of the season; albeit an exhibition win in the All-Star Race.

The pass for the lead “was kind of like one of those blackout moments,” Harvick said, “everything just happened.”

This year’s All-Star race was highly anticipated, but unlike past years, it delivered excitement. NASCAR deployed an aero-package that was meant to prevent the leader from breaking away from the pack. To get this result a restrictor-plate was utilized, air-ducts were made into the sides of the front bumper, a larger front-splitter, and a six inch tall rear-spoiler with 12 inch ears on each end.

Steve O’Donell, NASCAR’s vice president of racing operations, said, “from an eye test we were certainly pleased with what we saw.”

Daniel Suarez, who’d raced his way into the big show by winning the second stage of the All-Star Open, finished second. The second year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver said “it seemed like you needed to have the right helper behind you.”

So pretty much an evergreen statement for any race using a restrictor-plate. Regardless, what was needed to make a pass on a car was far less than it has been in the past on 1.5 mile tracks.

The 80 lap event was broken into four stages (30 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps, 10 laps) and featured no mandatory anything. Teams could pit and gamble as they pleased, proving pivotal to Harvick’s strategy. When Kasey Kahne banged the front-stretch wall early in the third stage, the No. 4 team used the caution to take four fresh tires. Two more accidents unfolded in the remaining laps of that stage, providing Harvick with an opportunity to make up track position.

Between the third and final stage, Harvick stayed out on track while others pitted. Restarting up front, he held off Suarez for a 0.325 second margin of victory.

A. J. Allmendinger won the final stage in the All-Star Open, providing him an opportunity to race for $1 million in the feature event. The driver, who has yet to win a points race on an oval, said the rules package “was interesting, for sure.”

“It can get a little frustrating at times because you get stalled out and you can’t go anywhere, but vice versa, when you get a run it feels pretty cool. I didn’t know what to think. Driving by it’s self was the most boring thing I’ve ever done in my life, but racing like this was pretty good and I’m pretty sure it put on a decent show for the fans there, that’s what we’re trying to do.

The racing undoubtedly provided excitement. Close quarters racing was prominent throughout the evening, and inevitably, calamity broke out on the racetrack. Five cautions flew for on-track incidents, not the least of which occurred when Kyle Larson and Joey Logano collided in turn-four with just a couple laps left in the final stage.

On the inside, Larson dive-bombed under Logano, but he wasn’t quite clear of Logano on exit. Going up the track, Larson collided with the No. 22. Logano hit the wall and then promptly drove back down the racetrack, into Larson’s right-rear quarter panel.

“Well he fenced me,” Logano said, “and then I bounced off the wall and there he was … he shouldn’t have fenced me.”

Logano’s car wasn’t tremendously damaged by the ordeal, and neither was Larson, but it was enough to keep Larson out of contention on the ensuing final restart.

Harvick, who was leading before the late caution, held onto his position through the final restart. He said, “there’s something about winning at Charlotte, something about winning in the all star race … we’re two for 18 now and I think that’s pretty neat.”

With 12 lead changes among 7 leaders (out of a field of 21 drivers) it’s safe to say this package created hair-razing, dynamic racing. It’s too early to tell what the apparent success means for the sport, but Harvick’s win proved one thing is certain: no matter what NASCAR throws at teams, in terms of rules and restraints, the best drivers and crew will always drive to the front.

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About Camden Lazenby

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