Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol TN — July 15, 2020
It’s the 2020 NASCAR All-Star Race and it’s being held at Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s July 15th and your taxes are due today. The list could go on and on. The COVID pandemic has turned this year into one in which we have learned to expect things to be different.
In this case, different is awesome. The All-Star race is normally held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the week before the Coca-Cola 600. It was postponed due to the health crisis. Having the race at Bristol has amped up the excitement for the event. Usually a very competitive event, The Last Great Colosseum is only going to make it a fender bending battle lap after lap.
A limited number of fans will be in attendance with social distancing being practiced in the grandstands. Something that would not have been an option had the race been run in North Carolina.
Who Gets to Race
NASCAR rules offer All-Star starts to the following drivers.
- Drivers who won a points event in either 2019 or 2020
- Drivers who won a NASCAR All-Star Race and compete full-time
- Drivers who won a NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete full time
Qualifying drivers for 2020 include: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Cole Custer, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, and Martin Truex Jr.
In addition to those 16 drivers, there are four more opportunities to join the field. The NASCAR All-Star Open runs as a preliminary to the feature event. The Open is divided into three stages of 35/35/15 laps. The winner of each Stage qualifies and the final entrant comes from a fan vote for the most popular driver.
The NASCAR All-Star Open
It did not take long for things to heat up in Stage 1 of the Open. Near the front of the field, a battle for position between Michael McDowell and Bubba Wallace got physical. Wallace used the bump-and-run hitting McDowell in the rear and moving him up the race track to make the pass. McDowell retaliated by running up the high side of the track to pull even with Wallace and turning down into the right rear of Wallace’s car. Wallace spun into the outside wall and destroyed his car taking him out of the race and the possibility of a fan-vote entry.
McDowell spun off the bumper of William Byron’s car and suffered sheet metal damage. His crew was able to repair the car enough for McDowell to continue in the race. While all that was going on Aric Almirola had moved to the lead. Undoubtedly one of the best cars on the Cup Circuit over the last few weeks, Almirola took the Stage 1 win.
After exiting the infield care center, Bubba addressed the media. Not happy with McDowell!
The Open Stage 2
With “Bristol Battles” going on all around the track, William Byron stayed out of trouble and easily won Stage 2. Booking his ticket to the All-Star Race for the 2nd year in the same manner.
The final 15 lap shootout only counts green flag laps with as much overtime as necessary to declare a winner. An interesting experiment is playing out for tonight’s race. NASCAR has instituted the use of a “choose cone.” A common technique for establishing restart positions on bullring short tracks around the country.
The cone is not actually on the track at Bristol, it is stuck in the fence and an arrow is painted on the track. As driver’s approach the cone they may choose the inside or outside lane to restart in. A wrinkle that may prove quite interesting before the evening is over.
The Open Stage 3
Race leader Matt DiBenedetto choose the outside line for the 15-lap final Stage. A big push from Clint Bowyer sent DiBenedetto into the lead and he never faltered. Clearly the best car on the track, the Wood Brothers Ford Mustang pulled away and won the final qualifying position.
Clint Bowyer was the fan vote winner and will take the 20th starting position for the main event.
The NASCAR All-Star Race
As the pre-qualified drivers pull their cars onto the track there are some paint scheme changes being employed for this special event. Car numbers have been moved off the driver’s door and positioned just ahead of the left rear tire. Opening up more sponsor space on the side of the car.
Joey Logano’s Ford Mustang All-Star Paint Scheme / NASCAR PhotoAt the 2019 Championship Celebration in Nashville drivers put on a show on the streets of downtown Nashville doing burnouts. The cars were illuminated with lights on the undercarriage. That same lighting scheme will be in place for the race tonight.
Active winning All-Star drivers in tonight’s race (number of wins): Jimmie Johnson (four); Kevin Harvick (two); Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman (one each).
Active Bristol winners in tonight’s race: Kyle Busch (eight); Kurt Busch (six); Matt Kenseth (four); Brad Keselowski (three); Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano (two each).
The All-Star Race stages are set for 55/35/35/15 laps with only green flag laps counting in the final stage. The winner cashes a check for $1 Million Dollars. Martin Truex Jr. won the blind draw for the pole position, with Alex Bowman sharing the front row with him. Truex car failed pre-race inspection twice and he will have to start from the rear of the field when the green flag waves.
Ryan Blaney drove to the early lead, driving past Alex Bowman easily. It only took 7 laps for trouble to bust out on the track as Kurt Busch went around off the front bumper of Brad Keselowski. Minor damage to Busch’s car was repaired in the pits and he returned to action.
Chase Elliott and Joey Logano found each other midway through the Stage, with Elliott making the pass for 4th place. The two fought it out in the Spring race here, wrecking each other out of the lead late in the race.
Kevin Harvick closed onto Blaney’s bumper with 5 laps to go, but Blaney was able to hold him off for the Stage Win. Chase Elliott followed Harvick across the line, with Bowman in 4th and Byron, Michigan’s Erik Jones rounding out the top 5.
Possibly the car to watch in the next Stage is Aric Almirola, who drove from the rear to take the 6th spot at the green and white checkered flag. Erik Jones’s crew was over the wall too soon on his Stage ending pit stop. The resulting penalty? Restart at the rear of the field.
Harvick wins the race off pit road followed by Blaney, Logano, and Bowman. On the restart, Ryan Newman spun off Turn 4 coming back to the line and the yellow displayed again. Chase Elliott moved into the top 4 for the restart and he sprinted past Harvick for the lead.
Elliott won the Stage, followed by Harvick, Blaney, Keselowski, and Bowman. Fan vote winner, Clint Bowyer drove from the last starting position at the beginning of the race to 6th place at the end of Stage 2
While the remainder of the field pitted, Ryan Blaney stayed on the track earning the top spot on the restart. Elliott, Keselowski, and DiBenedetto follow him to the green. The chose cone has already caused position changes as drivers pick what they feel to be the optimum line.
Blaney, with the older tires, was able to fend off an assault as drivers went three, then four-wide behind him. But, was the move to stay out a smart call? Pitting before the final Stage may be too much of a deficit to make up in just 15 laps.
Elliott passed Blaney with 15 laps to go in the Stage and drove away to the win. Blaney, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 5. Harvick was the first of the leaders to pit as only a few cars came to pit road for service. Harvick commented on the radio, “We can’t best then with what we have so why not pit and give it a go.”
The Final Stage
Elliott, Keselowski, Hamlin, and Blaney led them to the green. Elliott surged to such a big lead he may untouchable, Kyle Busch made the big move into 2nd as the leaders raced two and three-wide.
With 5 laps to go Elliott held a half-second lead on Kyle Busch who could get no closer. As Elliott took the checkered flag he became the 2nd father-son combination to win the All-Star event with his father Bill Elliott who won in 1986. Ironically Both Elliotts won on the only two occasions the All-Star Race was not held at Charlotte. Bill’s win came at Atlanta.
The other family winners, Dale Earnhardt Senior, and Dale Earnhardt Junior.
Results of the 2020 NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway
|10||19||Martin Truex Jr.||5.456||140|