The reveal of this year’s All-Star Race format was more anticipated than usual for a few reasons.
First, Monster Energy is sponsoring the race. Getting Monster to put its stamp on the format had a lot of promise to be fresh and different.
Next, NASCAR and the tracks are enjoying an era of unprecedented collaboration with the drivers, with the exchange of ideas constantly going back and forth. Combine that with things like stage racing being introduced this year, and there seems to be an appetite for big changes in the sport.
So when the All-Star format was unveiled Tuesday afternoon, my leg was bouncing up and down with nervous energy.
They could do ANYTHING to the format! It’s a blank slate! What will be the big twist?
The answer: Tires.
Tires? Yes, tires.
Teams will get one set of tires that has a softer compound, which will theoretically enable them to go faster. If a team puts on that set before the final stage, the car has to drop to the back.
The tire twist is described as “a game-changer” in the NASCAR press release.
Look, I don’t hate this format. It’s just…underwhelming in a That’s it? sort of way.
A decade ago, the All-Star Race was special because it was the only time NASCAR had double-file restarts. Now every race has those. Then the All-Star race was unique because it had stages. Now every race has those, too.
So the fact there are going to be three 20-lap stages before the final 10-lap shootout? Eh.
I like that some drivers will be eliminated (only 10 cars make the 10-lap shootout), but it’s complicated to keep track of who they are. Three stage winners go to the final stage, plus seven drivers who had the best average finish in the three stages, which — HEY! Pay attention! You started to drift. Anyway, then the cars will be lined up in order of their average finish for the final pit stop, and the order for the final stage will be determined — HEY! Are you getting this??
OK, you know what? You’ll just figure it out when you’re watching.
The point is, with all the creative people and ideas bouncing around NASCAR these days, backed by a push from a new and innovative sponsor, the format could have been way outside the box and cutting edge.
Instead, they decided to have a race that is, in part, “an ode to the 1992 edition of the same distance.”
Tires, I’m afraid, aren’t going to sell any extra tickets.