The Top Five: Breaking down the All-Star Race

Five thoughts after Saturday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race…

1. Heat races, anyone?

This year’s edition of the All-Star Race — also known as NASCAR’s mad science experiment — produced some intriguing leads for concepts that could be brought to the Cup Series on a regular basis.

The exhibition has been a proving ground for ideas in the past. Double-file restarts and stages both had their roots in the All-Star Race before becoming routine. The current rules package did, too.

So what can NASCAR take this time?

A lot of the focus will be on the tweaks to the rules package — the hood scoops and the ridged splitter — but the biggest takeaway should be heat races.

The Open wasn’t just a B-Main, as Kyle Larson called it. It was almost a series of B-Mains, because the winner was removed after each stage and essentially created a new race.

And based on the intensity and hard driving we saw in those short-burst races, there’s nothing wrong with putting elimination on the line in a B-Main and moving to an A-Main later.

Why not try it in an actual Cup Series points race?

NASCAR has worried for years that if a star driver didn’t make the main event, sponsors and fans would riot. But what’s the difference between having a driver get eliminated in a B-Main and having them crash out on Lap 1 of the feature race? The driver still raced at the track that day and was still part of the overall show, even if they faced an early exit.

Having a battle for those last few spots — and the drama such scenarios create — is worth any griping or sponsor headaches. Forget money or a trophy; the desperation to be included in the main event is worth more than anything in that moment.

Oh, and last night’s A-Main winner came from the B-Main, which only added to the storyline.

NASCAR could try this concept at a place like Pocono or Michigan. It could hold qualifying for the top 20 spots, then use a pair of 25-mile heat races to take four more drivers from each. Eight cars would be eliminated for, say, a 300-mile feature.

Would eliminating drivers really detract from the show? Based on the Open, it would only enhance the fan and viewer experience.

2. As for the package…

The All-Star Race itself was certainly a good race and wildly entertaining. But what made it so?

If you ask the drivers, it was largely due to bunched-up racing more than the rule package tweaks.

“I honestly don’t feel like it was any different,” William Byron said of the package. “I think it was just the circumstance of how many restarts there were and how intense this race is.”

The longest green-flag run of the 85-lap race was the opening stint, which was 27 laps. After that, here were the length of the green-flag runs (in order): One lap, three laps, 13 laps, four laps, 10 laps, one lap, 12 laps.

The All-Star Race had nine starts and restarts in a relatively short amount of time. So yes, that certainly helped the entertainment value and the intensity.

“You can’t really pass after it gets strung out, so you’ve got two or three laps to be as aggressive you possibly can be,” Aric Almirola said. “If you check out of the throttle for just the slightest little bit, they go by you three and four-wide. It’s crazy. It’s all about momentum.”

The bottom line: The tweaks certainly didn’t hurt, but they probably weren’t solely responsible for the improved quality of the racing, either.

3. Charlotte should save its money

When it comes to the prize money being a major storyline of the race, everyone seems to make a big deal out of it — except for the people actually taking home the cash.

Winning $1 million — of which the driver likely keeps half or less, depending on his contract — just isn’t that important to these guys. You think Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick taking home an extra $500 grand or something on top of their annual salary is worth going crazy over?

Even Larson indicated the thrill of Saturday was about the victory, not the money.

“A million dollars is cool, but just winning is more cool than a million bucks to me,” he said. “Us drivers — NASCAR drivers — are in a good place in our lives. It pays well. So whatever.”

It must be nice to be able to say “whatever” about a million dollars, but don’t get mad at Larson for the comment — because that’s reality for these guys. Salaries have declined in the Cup Series, but they’re still quite large compared to other forms of racing. Drivers live the good life, with private jets and multi-million-dollar motorhomes and lakeside mansions.

So the whole hysteria of “He’s going for a MILLION dollars!” is kind of funny. It’s not like a lottery winner or a reality show contestant, where a normal person’s life is transformed forever. These drivers would almost certainly race the same way for zero dollars.

“Just winning a big race, a prestigious event, means more to me than the money,” Larson said. “I’m all about trophies and big wins.”

To wit: Do you know how much the Chili Bowl winner gets? The answer is $10,000 — and I’d bet Larson would rather win that race than last night’s.

Charlotte Motor Speedway could still offer a generous prize — say $500,000, which would still be a lot for a race win — while saving itself a half-million to spend on marketing or something else.

4. Nostril holes

A quick word about the air ducts being in the center of the hood: Race teams need to match the color to their hood if this concept is used in the future.

Some teams — like the Hendrick Motorsports cars — had their nostril holes painted to go with their sponsor scheme. But others just left it that black/primer gray or however the ducts are produced. That made it look someone took a two-hole punch and just pressed it into the middle of the hood.

Lame.

NASCAR confirmed it was up to the teams whether they wanted to match the vents to the paint scheme. So hopefully if this idea sticks around, every team will do that to avoid a potentially ugly sight.

5. THAT’S the guy?

Clint Bowyer threw 11 punches at Ryan Newman after the race. He may have connected with all 11, for all we can tell.

How many of them do you think Newman felt? I’ll tell you: ZERO. He’s indestructible. Throwing a punch at Newman is like when the army launches those little rockets at Godzilla. It’s not going to do anything, and if he feels it, it’ll be a tiny pinch.

Look, I get why Bowyer was mad. Newman retaliated after the race, and even though Bowyer was at fault the first time — he pulled a jerk move on Newman after thinking the 6 car was a lap down — Bowyer had a right to go fight.

But damn, you’re really going to pick NEWMAN to battle with? The burly no-neck dude who already makes racing him a living hell for everyone who tries to make a pass? THAT’S the driver you want to feud with?

I’d apologize if I were Bowyer, and here’s why: If Newman gets mad after the next race and throws 11 punches at Bowyer, he’s done. His face would not heal in time for sponsor promo shots next year. Not worth it!

I could see trying to throw down with Larson or someone like that, but not Newman. Attack with some clever quips and insults; save the fists for someone who can’t hurt you back as easily.

20 Replies to “The Top Five: Breaking down the All-Star Race”

  1. As to the $1,000,000, Bowyer was Wild in his pre race interviews about possibly winning the $1,000,000.
    I have suggested in the past there be a large Allstar trophy that has to be returned each year and goes to the next winner for one year. They could have much smaller one they get to keep. So they are battling each year for their organization to keep the big one another year.

  2. I agree with heat races, and I’d like to see everything become a one-day show. That way, the fans can decide what they want to watch on the day they have a ticket. Run a short 30 minute practice session, then time trials. Top-16 cars are lined up at the front of 4 heats, handicapped by points, so the points leader could start no higher than 4th. Rest fill out by time. Top 6 in each heat qualify, and are lined up based on time trial time. Rest go to the Qualifying Feature, top 6 transfer to the back of the Main. 30 car field for the main. Each “chartered” team gets 6 provisionals per year.

    Traditional format and car count for the big 4, Daytona 500, Coke 600, Brickyard 400, Southern 500.

  3. It was a fun race. Still not sure about the heat races, it didn’t work for Xfinity. Big difference in 50 laps and 100+.
    As for Newman, I told my brother today, on one of the NASCAR weekly shows it was ask which driver you wouldn’t want to fight and I believe the majority said Ryan. Clint will NEVER be able to get past him now.
    Oh and where is the shout out to Bubba in all of this? Best part of the night in my eyes.

    1. For sure, Bubba raced his heart out last night and showed he can run with the big boys.

    2. The reason they didn’t work for Xfinity is that mostly they were for starting positions. If cars are sent home as Jeff suggests I think they might drive harder. Worth a shot.

  4. I gotta say, neglecting to put Bubba in your Top Five for this race was a big oversight. That was some good stuff right there.

    The money thing- Why not race for charities? A million to the racer’s chosen charity would be a cool story line.

    Heat races? maybe. Still not convinced it will work.

    The Aero Package: Take away the restarts and it was single file racing, the cars won’t wreck they are so stable, and the tires still are not wearing out. The best technical thing that was introduced at the All Star Race was Astro-Turf in the infield- another thing you missed.

    I could give two shakes about what color the ducts in the hood are.

    Did I mention you missed the cool stuff that happened around Bubba?

  5. Shoot fire, Clint was pulling his punches. As for his wearing a helmut, heck, Mr. Newman was still wearing his car….

    Way more protection… 🙂

  6. Multiple restarts in short order make more excitement than any ‘package. Bubba was the feel good story of the week! Heat races are for open wheel cars with more entries than starting spots. The picture I have of Newman is on pit road before a race when his 2 year old daughter was standing, holing on to he legs, and he looked like a tree protecting her. Bad choice, Bowyer!

  7. Jeff, your idea of heat races in a Cup points race puts you right up there with the idiots that run the sport.

    1. If you want short races, go to your local oval. It’s obvious Gluck lacks the patience to watch a full NASCAR race without them throwing cautions every 5 laps.

      1. Jeff Gluck complains and writes bullshit stories in the top 5 breakdowns almost on a weekly basis, I really enjoy his interviews each week but Gluck seems pretty out to lunch with some of his ideas. Thank god he isn’t a high up decision maker in NASCAR.

  8. “You can’t really pass after it gets strung out, so you’ve got two or three laps to be as aggressive you possibly can be,” Aric Almirola said. “If you check out of the throttle for just the slightest little bit, they go by you three and four-wide. It’s crazy. It’s all about momentum.”

    NASCAR still hasn’t learned. Quit making cars that rely on so much aero downforce. Go back to the aero that cars had in the 70’s and 80’s before they went nuts on the ever growing front valence or the splitters. In other words, rely on mechanical grip. Downforce has destroyed other racing series.

  9. Oh, I forgot to mention the $1,000,000 prize. It doesn’t affect most of the drivers as you said. Why not award it to one of the fans in attendance? You could pair the fans with the drivers in advance and then let the drama take place as the race wore on.

    1. That would be a huge waste of a million dollars. They’d be using it on cigarettes, dip, and beer.

  10. Not a fan of the holes in the hood. They need to bring back restrictor plates which will reduce the need for clean air and open up more passing opportunities. Notice how the two best races of the year were at plate tracks.

    One more thing, NASCAR needs to stop catering to young people who don’t care about cars or racing. We don’t need stages or any of this heat racing nonsense. The real fans know that restrictor plates are all that are needed to increase lead changes and provide closer racing. This has been fact ever since plates were introduced in 1987. Better racing + no gimmicks = More fans, better ratings, and more sponsors.

  11. Race was good. Bowyer must of thought his sponsor name on uniform and car said LOCO instead of toco!!

    1. Bowyer doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “hard racing”. Nobody is going to move over for you in crunch time, Clint. Either find a way around or just accept that you don’t have a fast car.

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