Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: A Visitor’s Guide to the NASCAR All-Star Race… In All Its Forms


It’s NASCAR All-Star Week, meaning it’s late May with temps in the low 80s – and the fish are biting. All’s right in the world.

In terms of All-Star races, the T-Rex car may have been the best ever, DW vs. Rusty in ’89 may have changed a fanbase’s loyalty, and the action on One Hot Night was, well, as hot as you’ll ever find it. But for my money, the 1987 Winston is the eternal hallmark for what this race is about. This was quarter-mile Saturday night action transplanted onto the big stage; this was drivers taking off the gloves and bare-knuckling it; this is how it’s supposed to be done, but rarely is anymore.

So before you click on SPEED this Saturday, click on this link to remember what real stock car racing is all about. And for some post-race fireworks (with Dr. Jerry Punch rockin’ the ‘stache) here’s another clip to whet your appetite for this year’s main event.

My only complaint: Keith Jackson calling this race. He and Donnie Allison weren’t exactly the Bob Jenkins/Larry Nuber combo I wish we had calling 10 of the greatest laps of my childhood.

Now, on to this week’s submissions.

Q: I’m going to give credit where it’s due. NASCAR made a good call by inserting a round of pit stops before the 10-lap shootout for the All-Star Race. If this is a team sport, the team should play a hand in deciding the winner. And who doesn’t love the 10-lap shootout?

Also, good call on NASCAR keeping the race in Charlotte. This is the home of the sport and this is part of a tradition that shouldn’t be messed with. This is one of my three favs every year (with Bristol night race and Darlington). Wish I could be there!!!! — Scott Garrinton, West Virginia

A: Hey, as long as there’s a 10-lap shootout, I’m OK with the mandatory pit stops. For those unaware, what Scott is referencing is a new wrinkle in procedure for the All-Star Race. After the third segment, the teams will be allowed to work on the cars during a 10-minute break. NASCAR will then line them up according to their segment three finishing order and run one pace lap. At that time, there will be a mandatory pit stop, and the starting order for the fourth and final leg will be set by the order they exit pit road.

My only question is how picky will NASCAR be with the pit-road speeds? This may sound distorted, but I’d have a harder time accepting someone getting beat with a speeding infraction in the All-Star Race than at a random stop like Dover. Weird, huh?

Q: Hi Matt. No Kasey questions for you this week, but I have two questions for you from the Nationwide race at Dover. 1. Andy Petree said teams use nitrogen in the tires. I’ve never heard this. Why nitrogen and not regular air like any other car?

2. The caution at the end of the Nationwide race was bogus! Did NASCAR give an official explanation of why a caution was used? The only thing ABC showed was Mark Green’s flat tire, but it wasn’t coming apart, it was just flat. It looked like a classic case of NASCAR using a minor thing to throw a caution so they could get an exciting finish… and they got it. Correct? Thanks! — 9 Fan Soon to be a 5 Guy

A: The reason teams use nitrogen is because it has a more level and consistent rate of expansion than oxygen. That’s the reason you hear the announcers talk about the tire pressure “building up” after a round of pit stops.

Varying levels of humidity in the air — water — causes oxygen to expand at different, and often times unpredictable, rates. Nitrogen is not affected in the same way, providing a more predictable rate of expansion and contraction. Thus, nitrogen is used in the tires to allow teams to gauge the buildup of pressure over the course of a run.

I think you answered your own question for the second one. The official results release attribute the caution period as “195 – 198 (Car #70 Accident Turn 2).” I’ve gone back, watched the replay and it’s obvious that Green’s car did not get into the wall, because there’s not one scuff mark along the right side of his machine. Looks like NASCAR needed to tighten up the field after Kyle Busch ran away from it and the boys in the control tower found a convenient loophole with three laps to go.

Manufactured excitement. I’m telling you, if viewers can’t appreciate a race run to its natural conclusion… well, actually I think they can. I just think NASCAR can’t appreciate that and therefore, can’t credit the fans enough to not jimmy with the finish.

Q: Love listening to you and Tom Bowles on the podcast, Matt. I couldn’t agree more with what you said last week. [Jeff] Gordon will finally get a win, but in a twist of irony it will be in the non-points All-Star Race. Remember that Smoke did it last year, but then he went on a hot streak and took the points lead. Keep up the good work, guys! — Shaun Routt, Ohio

A: I figure Gordon is on the verge of doing the same, although my boy Tom doesn’t agree with me.

Q: Matt, My husband and I will be in Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend for the 600. We’ll be there starting on Wednesday night and were looking for suggestions on what to see outside of the weekend race activities (we’re going to the Hall of Fame, Nationwide race, Cup qualifying, practices and race). We are New Englanders and are not familiar with the Charlotte area, but are very much looking forward to seeing Charlotte and the surrounding area! Thanks! — Danielle, Claremont, N.H.

A: This not being my area of expertise (I’m a Nashville boy), I handed this question over to a pair of Frontstretch’s tarheels, Miss Amy Henderson and Mr. Mike Neff. Neither realized it, but their suggestions were going into review form. So, without further ado, Fanning the Flames’ premiere edition of A Visitor’s Guide to Charlotte:

Amy’s Appealing Appetizers: “Red Rocks” is great. The one in Huntersville has many dishes named for drivers, who frequent the place, but not during race week (they aren’t crazy). If you’re a fan of the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, “The Penguin” in Charlotte has awesome food and was featured on the program. My personal favorite for a local restaurant is “Lancaster’s” in Mooresville — try the fried pickles!

There’s also “Pie In the Sky” (also in Mooresville), which got some airtime on NASCAR Drivers 360 a few years back because it’s Junior’s favorite and the pizza is out of this world (Junior has good taste in pizza).

Mike’s Mainstay Munchies: Assuming you are going to be staying in the Concord area, “R&R Barbeque” on Pitts School Road is very good. “Price’s Chicken Coop” is the best chicken you’ll ever have and “Spoon’s” is another great place to eat.

Amy’s Day at the Salon, er, Shop: I like the HMS and JGR shops, but there are smaller ones worth seeing, too: Red Bull’s is nice (but parking area is tight and tiny) and RCR has the best museum. Just know it costs $12.

Mike ‘n’ Amy’s First Date: Childress Vineyards offers tours and wine tastings, and there’s also the Earnhardt memorial in Kannapolis that’s worth seeing. NASCAR Speed Park in Concord Mills Mall is cool, as is Carowinds, which has typical amusement park fare, including a new Dale Earnhardt-themed rollercoaster called The Intimidator with a 211-foot drop that goes 80 mph.

Take the Kids, Too: The Carolina Raptor Center is very cool if you like outdoors kind of stuff, as well as the Charlotte Nature Museum. Discovery Place is downtown, which is a hands-on learning kind of museum.

Amy’s Odds ‘N’ Ends: Mount Airy (the town Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show is modeled after) is a day trip and very fun if you’re a fan of the show. You can eat at the “Snappy Lunch” and get a haircut at “Floyd’s” — sometimes actually from Floyd!

Also in Mooresville, between a shopping center and a housing development is the barn where they filmed Days of Thunder.

Nice job, you two. Sorry about the first date thing. Safe travels, Danielle.

Thanks for sticking around until the end. I hope you’re enjoying racing’s greatest month as much as I am. And yes, I know it’s in Italian.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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