For the first time since 1996, it’s NASCAR race week at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
The NASCAR All-Star Race is back in the state of North Carolina and shifts to the 0.625-mile oval in Wilkes County at the historic short track, which heartily welcomes back the Cup Series and its modern-day stars on Sunday night (8 ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the first time in more than 26 years.
With the All-Star Race comes unique changes to the weekend format, at the forefront of which are a pit crew challenge and heat races. The main goal, however, remains a simple, easy-to-follow setup that’s bound to excite throughout this special weekend.
Here is how the format factors into the main event:
Qualifying — Pit Crew Challenge, 5:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM: Lineups for the two heat races and the All-Star Open will be determined by the Pit Crew Challenge, which will feature each team performing a four-tire pit stop with timing lines marked one pit stall behind and one ahead of the designated pit box. Fuelers will be in play for the pit stop as usual, but their fuel cans will be dry.
The goal is easy: The quicker the pit stop, the higher up the field that team will start.
The 21 teams locked into the All-Star Race will be split into two heats. Those who finish first, third, fifth and so on in the pit competition will compete in the first heat race; those who finish second, fourth, sixth and so on will compete in the second heat.
The remaining drivers not yet locked into the big show will compete in the All-Star Open, the starting lineup for which will be set by the results of Friday‘s pit competition, with the quickest team on the pole.
Heat Races — 7:20 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM: Two 60-lap heat races are set to fire off Saturday night with 11 cars in Heat 1 and 10 in Heat 2, each fighting for their starting positions in Sunday night‘s $1 million main event.
The results of the first heat will set the inside row — first, third, fifth and so on — for the starting grid of the All-Star Race, while Heat 2 will set the outside, even-numbered positions.
All caution laps will be counted throughout the heats, with each team slated to start on new, fresh tires with one additional set available on pit road. Normal race procedures are in effect for pit road with no scheduled interruptions throughout the 60-lap dashes.
All-Star Open — 5:30 p.m., FS1, MRN, SiriusXM: The sixteen drivers not yet locked into the main event will fight through this 100-lap preliminary event to earn one of two transfer positions into the All-Star Race.
The field will take the green flag with the event‘s lineup set by Friday night‘s Pit Crew Challenge. All normal race procedures are in effect with one scheduled “competition break” set to wave at or around Lap 40.
The top two finishers in this dash will advance to the All-Star Race. In addition, the Fan Vote winner will also bump from the Open into the All-Star Race. The award is granted to the driver with the most votes who did not already advance via the transfer positions.
All-Star Race — 8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM: The grand finale, the 200-lap All-Star Race pits 24 of the sport‘s greatest drivers against each other for a $1 million payday.
Like the heats, every lap will be counted with all competitors starting the event on fresh tires. Teams will have three additional sets of Goodyears available to use on pit road, which will be open per standard race procedures.
An “All-Star Caution” will signify the yellow flag at or around Lap 100, the midway point of Sunday‘s big show. After that caution period, only one additional set of new “sticker” tires may be used throughout the duration of the event.
The winner walks away $1 million richer in this non-points exhibition thriller.