Radical changes? Not quite. But a step toward NASCAR’s future?

Absolutely.

NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway announced Wednesday the format and rules package for the 2019 All-Star Race, scheduled for May 18.

Format-wise, this year’s race will include four stages of 30, 20, 20 and 15 laps, respectively, slightly longer than last year’s event. Each stage is eligible to go into overtime, and only green-flag laps will count in the final stage.

The most significant change this year comes in the rules package, which will offer a glimpse into NASCAR’s future and its Gen-7 car, currently slated to debut in 2021.

Last year’s All-Star package featured restrictor plates — normally reserved for Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway — at CMS for the first time in the track’s history. Further additions of a 6-inch spoiler and aero ducts made the package drastically different from the Cup Series’ normal rules.

The result?

One of the most exciting All-Star races in years ... and NASCAR adopting a modified version of that All-Star package for the entire 2019 Cup season.

“Last year’s All-Star rules package resulted in one of the most exciting All-Star races in history,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said in a statement. “Throughout its history, the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race has provided a platform to try new and innovative ideas, some of which we have incorporated on a full-time basis.”

This year’s changes won’t be as dramatic, but it should provide NASCAR an opportunity to see how potential Gen-7 features play out on track.

The two major technical changes will be a single-piece carbon fiber splitter, aimed at creating a more stable aero platform, and incorporating a radiator duct that exits through the hood to reduce engine temperatures.

“This year may provide a peek into the crystal ball for the Gen 7 car,” Marcus Smith, CEO and president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., said in a statement. “Once again, fans can expect the unexpected.”

The All-Star Race has long been a testing ground of sorts for NASCAR.

The sanctioning body has experimented with several aerodynamic and format changes over the years, including stage racing, that it later incorporated into the series at large.

NASCAR and CMS are able to do that because, unlike in NASCAR’s other points-paying races, the All-Star Race doesn’t count toward the playoffs or impact the season whatsoever. Instead of a playoff berth, the winner earns a $1 million cash prize.

“This is the proving ground,” Smith said. “While (this race is) known for memorable moments, this race has established a place in history for testing what’s best for the future.”

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