Now Is the Time to Overhaul the All-Star Race Format
The idea of bringing back the 10-lap dash for the Sprint All-Star Race was done to bring back the excitement that the race had in the mid-late 1990's. Since then the race has gone from three segments, up to four, now to five, and has seen as many laps as 100, as low as 70, and currently is at 90 laps.
But, something has changed in the last few years...the cars, and the drivers.
For the last three years the 10-lap final segment has been billed as the segment to watch, where all the excitement is supposed to happen. What have fans gotten?
Zero cautions, a leader breaking away, and more follow-the-leader than beating and banging. There wasn't a spin off turn 4 that caused one driver to wish the winner would choke on the check, nor was there a young driver backing off while two veterans made mistakes in front of him. There has not been that "OMG" moment to remember in that final segment.
But still, despite changing the format for the final segment, it's been the same result. Maybe it is time to do something completely different, something that defines a real Saturday Night shootout under the lights.
Why not treat the All-Star Race in the same format as what a local dirt track, or even asphalt track, will do?
Try and follow; eligibility for the race itself would remain the same, as winners from the previous year and winners leading up to that season's All-Star Race that didn't win a year ago are automatically in. There would still be a Sprint Showdown, and a fan vote. The drivers already in still get to do the three-lap qualifying with a four-tire stop, just as they did for this year.
Now, this is when things get interesting. Take the qualifying results, and depending on how many drivers are already in the All-Star Race itself, break them up into heats, similar to what is done for the Daytona 500. For example, this year before the showdown, there were 19 drivers in the field. That field can be split into three heats, at most with seven cars in one.
The heat races would be 15 laps, and the top-three from each heat would automatically transfer into the All-Star Main Event. That would bring the field to nine, but if more heats were run, that number can be increased, or if less drivers are in already, more from each heat could move on to give a bigger field for the main race.
The remaining drivers would get some time to do some minor changes to their cars, and would race in the "Last Lap" Qualifier, which also would include the three drivers that transferred in from the showdown. This race could be 20 laps, and the top-five would transfer in.
For the main event race, it could be 50 laps, with a mandatory four-tire pit stop at the halfway point. In the first 25 laps, every lap would count, but in the second half only the green-flag laps count.
As for the Green-White-Checkered rule, until the race officially finishes under green, it can be unlimited attempts.
Sure, it may sound complicated on paper, or in this case on screen, but look at the local tracks across this country that run a similar style program. There is no issue of running this kind of format at the local speedways that pave the way to racing stardom. Why not give it a trial run in NASCAR's version of an All-Star event?
It's clear the 10-lap dash is not working like intended, because once a driver gets out front, it's pretty much over. At least here, there's a build-up to the big race, and the fans will be on the edge up until the big feature, cheering their driver to not only win their heat, but just to make it in under any means necessary.
The All-Star Race is supposed to be one of excitement, and cheer, because it's unlike any race on the circuit. Give it an overhaul, and see if the new concept really does work.