NASCAR Should Ditch the All-Star Race if This Is the Best They Can Do
NASCAR is right in thinking it must do something different for the All-Star Race, but I was thinking more along the lines of shutting it down. Instead, the sport’s brain trust has piled another gimmick onto the event.
The fact that this year’s format is less confusing than last year’s is like saying the book version of The Da Vinci Code is less tedious than the movie. Surely, they can scrap the race and find something more worthwhile to do with the $1 million top prize.
The All-Star Race is one of NASCAR’s older novelties
NASCAR has been hellbent on spicing up the sport recently. Converting the spring date at Bristol into a dirt race last season was a significant change, as was adding a bunch of road courses. Moving the Busch Light Clash to a super-short track at the Los Angeles Coliseum this year was another.
The moves served to add some variety to a sport in which mostly the same 36 drivers compete against each other 36 times a year. The NBA and Major League Baseball don’t face that issue and don’t make massive format changes in their all-star games to pique interest.
The All-Star Race, which began at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1985, is set for May 22 at Texas Motor Speedway, which is problem No. 1. NASCAR moved the event there last season as a consolation prize for the track losing its spring date. Unfortunately, TMS is a poorly regarded 1.5-mile track. The fact that a good many fans dislike 1.5-mile tracks to begin with adds to the problem.
Problem No. 2 is the use of two pit crew competitions as part of the qualifying process. NASCAR devalued pit crews the moment it resorted to stage racing. It’s not as though pitting under the yellow between stages is leisurely, but pitting under the green has more urgency and strategy associated with it.
The rundown on the 2022 NASCAR All-Star Race
The field for the NASCAR All-Star Race will consist of Cup Series points-race winners since the start of the 2021 season and previous series or All-Star champions still driving full-time. There are 20 drivers fitting that description: AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, 2021 All-Star Race winner Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Martin Truex Jr., and Bubba Wallace.
Fans will vote in one additional driver.
The All-Star Race will begin with single-lap qualifying in the reverse order of 2022 owner points, with the top eight advancing to a three-round bracket of head-to-head matchups. Two cars at a time will stage on pit road, and the race begins with a four-tire pit stop. The first car back to the finish after completing one lap advances to the next round, and the champion secures the pole.
Next comes a series of three 25-lap stages that set up the final 50-lap stage. In between will be a pit crew competition (another four-tire change). That winning car and those winning the 25-lap stages start in the first two rows of the $1 million race.
Preceding all that will be the 50-lap NASCAR Open for the remaining Cup Series teams. The three stage winners earn their way into the All-Star Race.
There are better options for the All-Star Race
The fact that seemingly everyone has an idea that they think would make for a better All-Star Race speaks volumes for the problem NASCAR has with its purported showcase event.
One suggestion frequently offered is to convert the Bristol dirt race into the All-Star Race, which does not count toward the season points race or automatically qualify the winner for the playoffs. One of the criticisms of the Bristol race in its current format is that there is no dirt race in the playoffs.
Jeff Gluck of The Athletic tweeted out the best idea we’ve seen so far for the All-Star Race. His format would consist of around 100 laps. The last-place car would pull off the track after every fifth green-flag lap until there were only four cars remaining.
At that point, the finalists would pit and then come back out for a green-white-checkered restart with the $1 million first prize on the line.
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