Paul Menard says he expects he and the No. 21 Menards/Knauf Insulation team will have a low-pressure but high-intensity Monster Energy All-Star Race weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
He and the Menards/Knauf team will start their weekend by competing in the Monster Energy Open, with hopes of advancing into the All-Star race by winning one of that race’s three Stages. One driver also will make the main event by a fan vote, so Menard’s fans should go to NASCAR.com and vote by noon on Friday. He was in the top 10 in the fan vote late last week.
The No. 21 Mustang that Menard will drive in the Monster Energy Open, like every other car on track for the All-Star weekend, will feature two technical parts that officials hope to feature on the Gen-7 car that is scheduled to hit the track in 2021.
One is a single-piece carbon fiber splitter/pan that is intended to offer more consistent aerodynamic performance in traffic.
The other is a radiator duct that releases air through openings the hood instead of through the engine bay. That change is meant to improve aerodynamic parity among cars regardless of their position on the track and to reduce engine temperatures.
In recent years NASCAR officials have used the All-Star race to test new ideas, many of which have found their way into use in future points-paying races.
"We’ll have a different package than what we’ll run in the Coca-Cola 600," Menard said. "I’m not sure what to expect."
What he does know is that he won’t have to worry about losing ground in the points standings if something goes awry during the race.
"It’s a low-pressure weekend," Menard said. "It’ll give us a chance to try some things we might not try on a regular weekend, and that helps us learn and get better as a race team.
"And we can be more aggressive with our racing."
He said that while there’s little pressure, there’s plenty of intensity. "It’s a different mindset," he said. "You can hang it out with little repercussions."
He said that even with two weekends to figure it out, sometimes the surface at Charlotte can be confounding.
"Charlotte is kind of a weird track," he said. "Sometimes the fast line is right out by the wall, and there are lots of lane options, and other times it’s single-groove or no grip."
Qualifying for the Monster Energy Open is set for Friday at 6 p.m. Eastern Time, and the race is scheduled to start on Saturday at 6 p.m. with TV coverage on Fox Sport 1.