Dale Jarrett this week suggested that the All-Star Race be moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Bristol. Stating that these drivers have all grown up on short tracks, I’m assuming he isn’t taking into account Danica Patrick or Juan Puablo Montoya, who both have not ever thought about driving short track or dirt track cars.
When I first heard this brought up, I took the typical approach of, “Why change something as historic as the All-Star Race?” Then I realized that the last several years that I have not enjoyed the All-Star event as much as I once did.
Perhaps this isn’t such a bad idea after all. I mean think back to this weekend’s race, we saw plenty of cautions, plenty of beating and banging on each other, tempers flared, and despite the fact that there wasn’t a ton of passing for the lead, there was still some and a good bit of drama as the laps wound down.
Granted true NASCAR fans don’t want a ton of carnage during a race, we mainly want to see meaningful passes, people getting held up in lap traffic, and the leaders trying to figure out how to navigate that lap traffic in a confined space. Drop in something like Bruton Smith did this year and give a bonus for winning each segment and we the fans win almost instantly.
Obviously the segments and rules would need to be tweaked a little bit to be more entertaining for a smaller venue. Whereas this year’s segments were twenty lap events in the first four sections, with one final ten lap shoot out, I would plead with anyone listening that they make the segments longer, work with Goodyear Tires and build some give up into the tires and then let the boys have at it. Let’s think outside the box a little more here since we are basically playing with house money and throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. Currently the only ones allowed into this star studded event are: Any driver that has won a race in that year or the preceding year, then any Sprint Cup All Star Race winner within the last ten years, Any Champion of the series in the past ten years, The top two finishers in the Showdown, and the fan vote winner, (whom is determined the night of the event).
Let’s expand the eligibility to anyone who has won a race in any of the three top touring series in the last five years. How great would it be to see a Ron Hornaday, or some rookie that snagged a victory in the Nationwide Series getting a one off deal to run in the All-Star Event? And since we are doing that, then obviously we have to let any champion in those three series in the past five years into the event as well. This will automatically give us an expanded field, if there are teams out there willing to take a run at that tasty thought.
Of course we would allow any Cup champion in the last ten years in, since that is what like three now? (Just kidding I know it’s four). I know I am just thinking loudly, and these things may seem like madness, but let’s play with this thought a little more. Let’s allow the top three finishers in the Sprint Unlimited All-Star Showdown Race presented by about seventy different sponsors whom we don’t even know, or whatever they plan to call it next year, I just call it the qualifying race for the All-Star Shootout.
The last rule on eligibility that I would make is a simple one, once you win the fan vote you are ineligible to win the fan vote again for three years. I am tired of seeing the same select few people win this part of the process before the night even gets started (Danica Patrick and Dale Jr, I am looking directly at you two).
Now to the matter of segment and race length, let’s start out slow and actually build towards something and learn a little from the trucks being on dirt this season. The first segment is twenty laps, and only green flag laps count, the second segment is thirty, and again only green flag laps count. The third segment would be forty-five laps, and a fourth segment would be fifty both with only green flag laps counting. I liked the idea of how where you exit pit road is where you line up, and a few years ago NASCAR gave us the fans a chance to participate a little more with each segment. At the beginning of each segment there would be a brief five minute voting process to determine the number of spots to invert at the end of the segment. This way the drivers and crew chiefs don’t know where they will be starting until the final sixty lap segment, which would be run for an extra payday for the drivers favorite charity. Let’s make it about giving back to the community that has been supporting this sport for so very long.
This would actually add a certain level of excitement back to the event, of course it would have to be run under the lights, if a driver is able to win all five segments then of course that team earns an extra million dollars for their favorite charity. Again I want this to be about the fans, because isn’t that what this event is supposed to be about? Isn’t the All Star supposed to be about giving us an extra layer of entertainment? Something extra for us to believe that our driver is simply the greatest person out there, would this instantly fix what is ailing NASCAR these days? Probably not, but it would at least give us something to cheer for again, and one final thought? Bring back the pit crew challenge the day before qualifying, show case the teams and let them factor heavily into the outcome of the event.