For the first time since 1986 and only the second time in the event’s history, the NASCAR All-Star Race will be held at a venue other than Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
For Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), the change in venue will be a welcome one, as the event will be held at a track where victory lane is quite familiar to him after his eight wins there – Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The inaugural All-Star Race was held at Charlotte in 1985 and moved to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the 1986 edition. The event moved back to Charlotte in 1987, where it has been held for the past 32 years. History will be made this week with the first ever All-Star Race held at a place nicknamed “The Last Great Colosseum” and one that seems to be tailor-made for this event.
Busch locked in his spot for Wednesday night’s main event – comprised primarily of 2019 and 2020 Cup Series race winners, plus past All-Star Race winners and past series champions – via his five series wins and Cup Series title in 2019. The Las Vegas native not only has earned the title of All-Star, he has recorded 211 career wins in NASCAR’s top three divisions and sits alone in ninth on the all-time Cup Series wins list with 56.
Along with the tradition of including race winners and champions, the NASCAR All-Star Race has also been a place where the sport has tested various new wrinkles to see if they might be worthy of adding to the series’ points-paying races. The 2020 All-Star Race may have more new wrinkles than ever. First, teams and sponsors have the opportunity to move the car number further back on each side panel with creative new paint schemes that will be different than the traditional number placement centered on the door panel. Secondly, each car locked into the All-Star Race will have underglow lightning installed with colors to match their manufacturer. Busch’s M&M’s Toyota will have red LED strip lighting in line with the other Toyota Camrys in the All-Star field.
Last but certainly not least, there will be a major competition change for Wednesday night’s All-Star race when it comes to restarts as the choose rule will be in place, which is a mainstay of short-track racing across the country. When drivers approach a designated spot on the track in the laps leading up to a restart, they must commit to the inside or outside lane. Failure to make a clear choice or changing lanes after the designated spot will result in a tail-of-the-field penalty. This is different from the current double-file restart system, where only the race leader chooses his lane. Having the rule for the All-Star Race gives every driver the ability to make his own decision, and strategy will come into play in every instance.
Busch will hope he can add another All-Star and Bristol win to his already impressive resume by bringing home the first Bristol All-Star win. He recorded his eighth career Bristol victory in the NASCAR Cup Series last April, extending his margin of most wins there among active drivers. Only his older brother Kurt is close in the number of wins with six victories at the .533-mile bullring.
The two-time and defending Cup Series champion holds the distinction of being the only driver in NASCAR history to win all three national series races in a single weekend, which he’s done twice at Bristol. He captured the “Bristol Triple” in 2010 and 2017 when he swept NASCAR’s Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and Cup Series races. In addition to his eight career Cup Series wins, Busch has 13 top-fives and 18 top-10s in 30 career starts at Northeast Tennessee’s “Thunder Valley.”
So, as Busch and the M&M’S team head to Bristol for the midweek tilt under the bright lights of the Bristol short track, he’ll hope his star will shine the brightest as the All-Stars will wage battle in NASCAR’s Colosseum.