Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: How Far Is Too Far?

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race is coming up Saturday (May 20), and as usual, the format is a little different from last year’s.  What does your perfect All-Star Race format look like?

Michael Massie: NASCAR can’t go around calling this an All-Star Race when it contains half of the drivers in Cup. To truly make it a battle of the elite, the criteria needs to be stricter. I want it to only have the race winners from this year and last year. If the reigning champion did not win a race, then they should be in as well. I like having the Open race a lot, as it gives smaller teams a moment to shine, but only one winner should emerge from it into the All-Star Race. That would limit this year’s field to 14 cars and would make it a much more prestigious event for which to qualify. Also, to raise the driver’s aggression and add drama to the event, it should be worth a regular season win. Have the winner get 40 points for winning, five playoff points and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. Second place gets a set of steak knives and no points at all. Tell me if that makes the racing better.

Phil Allaway: First off, no eliminations.  I despised that stuff way back when it was first used for The Winston back in 2002 and I hate it now.  It needs to be longer than 70 laps in total.  At the most, three segments.  Drop the whole average finish determines how you enter the pits rule because of stupidity and confusion.

Vito Pugliese: This format is about as perfect as we’re going to get, as it essentially mimics what made for such a memorable finish in the 1992 night race that has been playing on a constant loop the last two weeks. The addition of the soft compound tire adds another element to the race, which hopefully will regain some of its lost luster. With as aero-touchy as cars have become, coupled with an inspection process that has become entirely too laborious and scrutinized (lasers for stock cars… really?) and a cobbled up repave from over a decade ago have conspired to reduce this race to a follow -the-leader affair in recent years. The race I’m excited for is the Open before the actual All-Star Race. It produced a great finish last year and should again this year as well.

Amy Henderson: I don’t mind this year’s edition; I LOVE the tire choice element.  The race length is at the absolute longest it should be, and the segments are good. However, three transfers from the Open are too many; I was OK with two, but just one winner should be fine as well.  I have nothing against the fan vote; popularity does have a place in the sport. I would like to see eliminations make a comeback, two per segment because it makes every position count, and I’d like to see some kind of inversion come back for the final stage, whether it’s a full invert or a pill draw.

There was a debate on social media after Kansas Speedway about whether photos showing Aric Almirola being removed from his car, in obvious pain, after a crash should have been published.  Should this kind of photo be out there for all to see?

Allaway: It should have been published because it helps to describe the situation Aric Almirola was in.  Having said that, if you do use it, it needs to be done while keeping Almirola’s dignity in check.  Don’t use it as the featured photo and use it sparingly.  Maybe include a warning if need be, despite the lack of blood.

Pugliese: He had a neck brace on, it wasn’t as if it was a gruesome 1970s Formula 1 accident scene. It was no different than seeing an NFL player carted off the field with a neck brace on, or a rear-ender in your neighborhood intersection. Nobody batted an eyelash in 1992 when Davey Allison was extracted in front of the grandstands at Charlotte with a neck brace applied either. Whatever controversy surrounding it is another example of social media moral superiority, where all of a sudden people develop this deep sense of conscience, merely for self-aggrandizement.

Henderson: From a journalistic standpoint, showing the photo wasn’t unethical, but it also wasn’t necessary.  The one thing it did do was remind everyone that the port has a high cost, I’ll give it that.  But beyond that?  It serves exactly zero purpose. We know the injury Almirola suffered and that it’s painful.  Had the outcome of the accident been a tragedy, then it would be very wrong to publish photos of the extrication.

Massie: After the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007, news outlets showed images of the victims being carried out of the building by emergency personnel. If the news can show something as horrific as that and no one has a problem with it, then there should be no issue at all with showing images of Almirola. I do not like it, but that is a result of how desensitized our media and entertainment has made us. Also, Fox Sports 1’s Almirola coverage was nowhere near as bad as what the stations covering the National Football League do. When an injury in the NFL happens, viewers are forced to see it from every angle in slow motion.

Was NASCAR’s call to add an extra stage to the Coca-Cola 600 the right one considering Martin Truex, Jr. dominated the entire race last year?  

Pugliese: No, only because the big five races should have have one stage only. If a guy checks out on the field for four hours, why should they be penalized? While stage racing has proved largely successful this year, it would do well to leave the marquee races alone and do something different for them to make them that much more prestigious. Aware the same amount of stage points as you would at any other track, but the winner maxes out and gets everything, adding to the value of the event.

Henderson: No, any one race shouldn’t be more important than any other, and by giving more playoff points for this one, it makes it that way.  Also, while there’s a chance that a few teams will play the strategy card, when a team is as dominant as the No. 78 was last year, breaking the race up won’t make much difference. If NASCAR wants to add additional emphasis on some races, it should work with sponsors on something like the Winston Million or even the Dash 4 Cash currently seen in the XFINITY Series.

Massie: I like the decision, as the race is one of the crown jewels of NASCAR so it should be worth more. I only hope that NASCAR also makes the Daytona 500 and the Southern 500 worth more as well. NASCAR needs to copy the model of golf and tennis, where there are four major events. All four should come before the playoffs, so it should be the three I mentioned and then maybe the Bristol Motor Speedway night race or Talladega Superspeedway. If those races were advertised as the major races and if they were worth more points than the rest, then viewership and attendance would spike for those events. The only problem is that NASCAR announced the change a week ago instead of at the start of the season. It is certainly not as bad as when a 13th playoff spot was added for Jeff Gordon in 2013, but NASCAR needs to lay off making sudden changes for a little while.

Allaway: Not this week.  I’m still against these stages in general, but you don’t make big changes to race formats in the middle of the dang season.  I don’t give a tuchis about what Martin Truex Jr. did last season.  That’s not likely to happen again anytime soon.  If you want to do something like that, you wait until next year.  There are other ways to show that the Coca-Cola 600 is a more important race than normal than messing around with the race itself.

NASCAR’s laser inspection station continues to plague teams before and after races.  Teams say it’s inconsistent in measurements and they’re legal.  NASCAR says teams need to present cars that pass inspection.  Who’s right in this case?

Henderson: At the end of the day, teams need to present legal cars.  While I’d love to see NASCAR open things up in some areas, the rules are the rules and whether teams agree with them or not is not the issue.  If the laser station is picky, then show up on the side of caution.  I hate this conception that being a little out of tolerance is OK for some people.  Yet if some other teams are out by the thickness of a sheet of paper, they’re cheating.  That doesn’t fly.  The rules, like them or not, are the same for everyone, and everyone needs to abide by them.

Massie: The teams know they are pushing the limits and are only getting mad when they get caught, but NASCAR needs to loosen up with all of its rules. A huge part of the history in NASCAR is the innovation through the brilliant minds of the crew chiefs and engineers. There are some of the smartest people in the world, and they need to be allowed to display their creativity in making a car fast. Smokey Yunick, Dale Inman and Ernie Elliott would never make it in today’s NASCAR because they would be suspended all of the time. By having such strict rules and regulations, NASCAR is deeply hindering the smaller teams, as they do not have the resources to find loopholes in the same way that the larger teams do. With looser guidelines for the cars’ template, one of the smaller teams’ crew chiefs might figure something out every once in a while that no other crew chief has figured out to score their team a win.

Allaway: It sounds like they may both be right.  NASCAR needs to have someone look over their laser equipment and certify that it is in fact accurate.  The people that do that can’t work for NASCAR.  Once NASCAR comes back with the all-clear, then the onus is on the teams to not screw it up.

Pugliese: The teams are uniformly in agreement that it changes from car to car. One time a car will go through it will fail, but they’ll send it through again and it’ll pass. If they’re transported all over the fruited plain in the back of a semi truck, what are the chances that something is going to be, say, .001 inches off in calibration?  Loosen up the rules and eliminate the tolerance. Set a limit and stick to it. For a series and sanctioning body that markets competition as cars slamming into each other, beating in fenders and bump drafting but then comes down hard on a car being half the thickness of a credit card out of spec, it has a pretty hollow ring to it. It also unnecessarily and inaccurately reflects negatively on the teams and driver to the sponsors, and for a sport that runs solely on other people’s money, it’s a bad business decision as well to keep perpetuating the illusion of cheating.

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Bill B

#1 – Winners from previous and current year only.
Only the winner of the Open gets into the all-star race.
Fan vote for entry but only drivers with stats to support being considered an all-star are on the ballot (past champion, those that qualified for the chase the previous year, those that qualified for the all-star race in the previous year, etc.). Popularity or the ability to lobby on social media shouldn’t be part of the mix.

#2 – There is a fine line when showing someone injured in the media crosses a line into bad taste or exploitation. It’s hard to define that line but I know it when I see it. In this case the line was crossed in my opinion.

#3 – Adding an extra stage to the 600 is total BS. One of the aspects of racing that defines a good race to me is for there to actually be green flag pit stops. We may be lucky to see one at the 600 which is sad since it is the longest race of the year. Add in that the decision was made two weeks ago in mid-season and the whole deal kind of pisses me off.

#4 – Nothing to debate here. There are limits established and posted. In order to have any rules the line has to be drawn somewhere. If you want to pass inspection then leave enough variance where you are well under the limit. It’s not rocket science. There is a risk to pushing the limit in any endeavor. In this case the risk is you miss qualifying.

Bill B

Oooops…. The last sentence in #2 should have been…

In this case the line was NOT crossed in my opinion.


If you think they just drive the equipment to the track and set it up and drive the cars on it you are wrong. Each time they set it up it is calibrated for that location, and probably takes into account the slope on the floor. If it says the reading is out .oo1 inch it is rounded off to 3 decimal places. If one car fails the inspection and the next one passes, what does that tell you about the car that failed? And if the guys using it are any good they can tell if the calibration is off.

The “race” is too long with too many cars. The event should be for the previous year’s winners and maybe this present year winners. Who ran in the first one? Why have an event for winners and include non-winners? Now, if you’re breathing, you can qualify. Make it 40 or 50 laps and don’t count cautions. It’s almost a full fuel run and they might run out of S’noco race fuel.


The All-Star Race feels like that place most towns have. A building that houses a Mexican restaurant for a few months before it closes. Then a few months later an Asian restaurant opens there, then an Italian-themed restaurant moves in, and this cycle goes on for years and years. No matter what is there it is doomed to failure and the best outcome is for it to be torn down and have some trees and grass planted and turn it into a park.

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