Column: New All-Star Race format underwhelms

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.

Tires…

……..

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.

43 Replies to “Column: New All-Star Race format underwhelms”

    1. We have watched Nascar for years. So boring. I do housework until last 15 laps. Get rid of DW. Last race had red flag and never said why. Tires suck. Stages suck. No wonder no one in stands. Too much hype for Suarez and not enough for Erik Jones who needs a better pitting crew. Stepchild. I could go on forever. Quit making inconsistent calls

      1. Stages are like the final nail in the coffin…….. the tires are the terrible and the cars aren’t much better. THIS IS A RACE!! I’m interested in which car can run faster and win… not any of NASCAR’s stupid attempts to attract new millennial fans who haven’t the attention span to watch an entire race for a result.
        The day that the sheer speed of these cars combined with a skilled driver’s talents isn’t enough to keep the attention of fans, is the day they need to kiss NASCAR goodbye.
        I plan to retire from NASCAR when my driver does … which will be soon I hope.

  1. I’m with you, Jeff. So much opportunity. My daughter came up with a couple of good ones:

    1-run one of the stages backwards
    2-run stage one with trucks, stage two with XFinity cars and stages three and four with cup cars-all the same drivers

    1. Both ideas are home runs if not grand slams. Now by backwards does she mean turning right, or literally in reverse – because I think for the All-Star race they should try both 🙂

    2. Yep … and have the drivers juggle balls while their crew chiefs sell candy floss in between the race breaks.

  2. If Monster wanted a unique all star race they should have moved it to The Dirt Track. THAT would generate some news and interest.

  3. I can’t believe I paid money to be at last year’s disaster. I felt bad for the people I talked into joining me.

  4. I agree this is a bit underwhelming, but a) maybe some relative simplicity is welcome after years of “…huh?” and b) I’m somewhat intrigued by the tire idea (though I think that would have more of an effect if this race were being run in the heat of the day, rather than at night). IndyCar typically runs two types of tires on road and street courses, and it really affects the strategy of those races.

    That said, I second Eric; run this thing at the dirt track!

  5. Tires in my opinion a huge. It is a game changer. The only strategy is not going to be when you use your tires. Teams have a hard enough time going from different sets of tires with the same compound being consistently fast. Now you’re giving them a different compound all together. So the question is what do you set up for. Hard tires, soft tires or a compromise. The final stage is only one that matters, but first you must get there. Do you use your tires early in the race to get a stage win I hope to maintain track position for the final stage and run away before the soft tires get you. I really think the possibilities are endless on this running good your steps up and it really works out at the swap tires were that much faster. Best part about the tires is that all almost eliminate testing for the 600 All-Star weekend

  6. Okay Jeff, you complain that it is underwhelming and that they could have done something “cutting edge”. Like what? I hope you have a column in mind that will give us your thoughts on what you would think were some “cuuting edge” ideas.

    If average finish is too tough to figure out, maybe they should have had the three stages be heat races and take the top three finishers from each stage to go into the final round. I mean, at least that is clear to most racing fans, yes?

    I agree with Jeremy Sparks in that the softer tire option is actually a game changer for many of the reasons he states. Also, I agree that this eliminates the All Star Race as anything a team can gain info on for the 600.

      1. Okay, I apologize. I read that and had forgotten about it, but you should have linked back to that! Bad form, Mr. Gluck! (Just giving you a hard time.)

        Okay, I have to say that most seemed not to agree with you 100% with that idea, and I am not sure that is the way to go either. In my opinion, and some on that older post hint at this as well, the track the race is at is the problem.

        I think you and some other writers have suggested that the All Star Race be at Bristol, or some other short track. It is almost universally agreed that short track racing is more fun to watch. Drivers seem to like it more as well.

        I do not think a dirt track, or using multiple layouts at a single track is a good idea. That’s a different event altogether. One is a throwback worthy of some more exploration and the other would be a circus and I do not think that teams or owners would be down with that idea.

        You can tweak the All Star format all you want at Charlotte. The track is not conducive to putting on a good show for an “All Star Race” in my opinion.

        1. I tend to agree Ted that some variation in the host track would be good given NASCAR’s wide variety of options.

          Of course I think the same about the last winner-take-all race of the Chase and I care about it there a little more 🙂

        2. Yeah, the biggest issue is Charlotte is a terrible track. One of the short tracks would have a better chance at putting on a good show, but even then I’m not sure.

          To be honest, the All Star events for about every pro sport sucks and is an over-hyped event, so NASCAR really isn’t any different.

  7. What is this now, Formula Nascar? What’s next? Eight tire changers, quick change body parts and 5-second pit stops?!?

  8. Different tire compounds -copying F1 and IRL. Next thing you know they will copy Formula E and instead of having changing tires they will change the cars instead!

  9. Like last year I will withhold judgement until after the race. Yes Last Year Sucked….I was there. I will be there again this year (only missed being at 2 of the AllStar races). On paper the only issue I have with it pre-race is the main event should 20-20-20-20-10 AND they should NOT count caution laps in ANY stage. The current 70 total laps is not a lot of racing for the cost of the ticket, hotel, etc. I am glad the Monster Energy Open will be back to Saturday. It was the best race of the weekend last year.

    1. That’s a really good point about the low lap count vs stage caution laps. But if they are eliminating drivers maybe the caution breaks in the middle won’t count like they do in normal races?

    2. Last years race sucked because NASCAR blew it on the caution that trapped most of the field a lap down on a technicality when the 1 had not pitted under green. I think it was going to be a great format, however NASCAR couldn’t get out of there own way unfortunetly

  10. You heard it here first. Just wait to see what they will do for next year’s “All Star” race.

    Each contending team will present a car to NASCAR. The drivers will then draw lots to see which car they will drive.

    If they draw their own car, they will have to draw again. They can however drive a car that was prepared by another team, but owned by the same person. In other words, Kyle Busch could drive the car prepared by Denny Hamlin’s team.

    The above rule is subject to change without notice.

  11. I can’t believe they moved the qualifying with the exciting no-speed-limit pit stops to Friday! I have been to the All Star Race 5-6 times, and that was always my favorite part of the event.

    This qualifying event along with burn-out competition are what gave the All-Star Saturday night the fun-factor other sports have with their competitions (3-point, dunk for NBA, HR Derby for MLB, and shooting/skills competition for NHL).

    Having qualifying Friday night detracts from the Saturday package that brought the fans out for years.

    1. Qualifying on Friday for years and years, with the Open being on Saturday.
      Qualifying to me is not near the value of seeing the Open prior to the All*Star Race. When they announced that the Open was moving back to Saturday where it belongs I immediately bought a ticket.

  12. I think the all-star race will underwhelm no matter what the format. IMO the all-star events in all other sports (NFL, NHL, MLB, etc.) underwhelm as well. At least the attraction in all those other sports is seeing all those great players on the field at one time. Since NASCAR drivers compete against each other every week, there is nothing special about the all-star race and therefore, regardless of the format, it will always be a let down.

  13. Thinking about this some more, what if NASCAR awarded “something” meaningful to the All Star Race winner, in a similar way that Major League Baseball does with regard to the winner of their event? In baseball, the All Star Game winner gets home field advantage for their league in the World Series, if I am not mistaken. But whatever- The point is that NASCAR might consider something like awarding first pit stall selection in the Playoffs, (Chase), or something along those lines which would maybe be worth a bit more than say, a million bucks, which- let’s be honest- is not a lot of motivation to win when you are hauling in the cash like these drivers are these days. I mean, give away the cash as well, but give away something else meaningful to the playoff format down the line which might motivate more intense racing. At a short track, of course!

    1. DW would like you to think that winning the million bucks is life changing to these guys. Sorry, DW, but these guys don’t work at Walmart. They are already millionaires. A million bucks winning this race will not change their lives like it would you or I.

  14. I like it. As long as they don’t try this stuff in actual races that count, I’m good with it. I also think the disaster last year scared them to try something too out of the box, but it might be for the best. The fans are growing tired of all the change and gimmicks, so going back to basics with just a small twist was probably the right way to go. NASCAR doesn’t currently have the leverage with fans or tv to try something too different.

  15. The whole race and format is underwhelming because NASCAR does not need an “All Star Race.” This race was dreamed up by the late T. Wayne Robertson to be an advertising arm of Winston and R.J. Reynolds tobacco in the middle 1980’s, a winners only race from the previous year.

    In stick and ball sports an “All Star” game is two teams made up of player who wouldn’t play on the same team but are in the same league ie: American v National league in baseball. The so called NASCAR “All Star race” is the same guys racing against the same guys that they raced the week before and who will race against each other next week. It is just another race but no points and of course it is all about money.

    The only true racing “All Star Race” was when IROC first began in the 1970’s with drivers from F1, Indycar, Can-Am, Trans-Am and NASCAR in Porsche’s, then it became a NASCAR clinic on super speedways.

    NASCAR does not need an “All Star Race”, if you want an true NASCAR All Star Race pit the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series against each other but with a balance of power and speed difference between the series that will never happen and there aren’t any true Xfinity stars since Cup driver win all those race anyway but that is another story.

    1. “All Star race” is the same guys racing against the same guys that they raced the week before and who will race against each other next week. It is just another race,, We Have a Winner, been saying that for years too, Jeff, how ’bout fixing up Wilkesboro and having it there, I would even go back to nascar then.

    2. @TheNASCARJeff Glad to find someone more closely aligned with my opinion than most. T. Wayne’s idea in the mid 80s was fresh and unique. The Winston had a good bit of relevance for the first 10 years or so.

      But no more. I’ve advocated for several years now the ASR should be scrapped. It doesn’t move the needle for anyone – drivers, teams, TV, sponsors, fans, or CMS.

      Give the teams the week off, heavily promote the 600 and stretch of summer races, and have NASCAR benefit a bit by “less is more”.

      1. I tend to agree. Fewer All Star games in most major sports seem compelling each year (Pro Bowl is the worst consistently so NASCAR can breath easily there) but it seems like the best option is to fully embrace oddities and randomosities that you can’t see in normal races to drive interest.

        The tires do this, but as (I think) Jeff is driving at, for this non-points race they should probably shake things up a bit more.

    3. In many ways NASCAR’s All*Star race has kind of influenced how NASCAR is running things. Either directly or indirectly.
      Playoffs with winning teams getting in (so all the same teams in All*Star are usually the 16 that make the Playoffs plus 4 more)
      Double File Restarts
      Segments in races
      Special Paint Schemes

      When it was a 32-36 race schedule with no playoffs, no segments, and points was the big buzz word the NASCAR All*Star was a refreshing, fun, unique break with the best in the business just going for a win.

      And even though it was a money grab from 1995-2000 the special paint schemes ran in the All*Star Race were just that, special one time paint scheme that a driver had from the same colors he ran every other of the 36 or so weekends.

      Now all 36 points races kind of feel like the All*Star Race used to, all the best still in the race, don’t worry about points, just win. And playoff and All*Star teams are the same teams. The All*Star Race is still fun, but it is not longer unique and special. For that reason most people leave that weekend disappointed. You leave saying, well that was nothing spectacular or different than always.

  16. these comments show what a mickey mouse race the all star race is. Just have a point race in Iowa.

  17. All Star game/race in any major sports sucks,they lost their relevance.

    Monster Energy lost a unique chance to innovate w the Nascar team.Thank to goodyear maybe it will be spectacular? 10 car would be great racing at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway or SoBo not at 1.5 miles CMS … We will need to drink a lot of Monster to stay on the edge of the seat

  18. I have to disagree here. I like the addition of soft tires coming into play for the final segment. This will be a great test session for a possible new strategy play in 2018.

    I like that they’ve brought back eliminations, though i would have preferred the style they used in 2003 rather than average finish (still, a little basic math never hurt anyone who doesn’t work for NASCAR on Fox).

    They kept the same Open concept as last year and now it’s moved back on the same day as the All-Star Race. Win and double-win there.

    I likely won’t be in attendance as Bristol is holding their Southern Late Model event that weekend, but I’d go as far to say that this format would encourage me to purchase a ticket. That says a lot as Charlotte isn’t one of my favorite tracks, no matter how close it is to me.

  19. This could be interesting, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Since I’m thinking about it this is what I would start with if I was making the changes.

    I want to bring the pit crew competition back. 5 cars come down pit road at a time and they race who can be the fastest off pit road. Raise the speed limit to 80 mph, but speed and you take a 15 second penalty. It’ll be 8 groups according to points so 1-5, 6-10, and so on. The winners of each group come down pit road one final time and the winner off wins and gets the pole. Give the winning crew the golden jack and air guns to display at their shop. Line the ones qualified for the All Star race by their pit times. Give 2 berths to the 2 other fastest teams not in the All Star Race.

    The remaining cars have a 10 lap shoot out. The top 2 go to the All Star Race and then 1 fan voted in driver.

    Now we’re set. 4 stages, caution laps don’t count. You can pit whenever you want or not. Stage 1 Race 25 laps on the oval. The top 6 get a bye and sit out the next stage.

    Stage 2 The remaining drivers race 15 laps on the road course. Before they begin they can come down pit road or not. How they line up after pitting or not is how they’ll start the next stage. The top 6 go to the next stage. Everyone else goes home.

    So now we have the top 6 from Stage 1 & Stage 2. They line up like the duels, Stage 1 group starts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11. Stage 2 group starts 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12. Before Stage 3 begins you can pit or not, how you come out is how you start.

    Stage 3 is 10 laps on the road course. Top 8 go to the final round and bottom 4 go home. (Yes if you got a bye you don’t have any time on the road course, figure it out, you’re the best).

    Again you can pit or not and how you come out is how you start. Stage 4 It’s a 10 lap shootout for the win! Winner gets a million.

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