This weekend, the Cup Series returns to Texas Motor Speedway for the All-Star Race. I havenʻt checked, and nor will I bother, to see how many articles are being written about how the race is a waste of time, or the format is wrong, or that something about something is not right. In that scenario, it is probably something about Kyle Busch.
If anyone seems to encounter a lionʻs share of the vitriol from NASCAR fans, Busch is the one. Sure, Joey Logano has also become a favorite target but the narrative around him seems different like he is more of a wanker than anything resembling the dubious devil driving the No. 18.
But really, good for both of them. They must be doing something right if lots of people not only know their names but also hold opinions about them. Never mind if those opinions are actually based on having ever spent time with either driver. Have you had dinner with Logano or Busch? Played golf? Discussed the data points of speed and how it relates to constructed notions of intuition?
Everything is a facade. They are real people but who knows anything real about them other than those who are closest. Twitter, Instagram, Meta, Reddit, rumors, 4chan, whatever, if any of that truly offers insight, that would be a lovely notion. The construct, however, is what matters, and the same notion matters regarding the so-called All-Star Race.
What makes the ASR such a complete and unknowable thing is that it exists only in our collective imagination. Many will turn in to watch millionaires race with the prospect of winning another million if that makes sense. Others will spend time watching the event because of habit, that as fans the normal cyclic rhythm of watching cars go in circles is familiar and enjoyable. And because it is a Saturday night, thereʻs a solid excuse to drink some beverages and enjoy spending time with the TV family known as NASCAR. And some will be genuinely interested because performance in the race does actually offer some insight as to who the best drivers are.
Recognize that seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson stands as the all-time leader of wins for the ASR with four. Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon are situated with three wins apiece. For a race that began in 1985, there is a certain amount of relevance in understanding excellence through the ASR, but just maybe not enough.
Even the fact that the two most recent winners of the race, Chase Elliott (2020) and Kyle Larson (2021) won championships during the seasons they grabbed victory says little. The win is not necessarily a harbinger of hoisting the big trophy at the end of the season. So, what, if any is the point of whatʻs going on here?
The truth is, the ASR is more of a challenging existence than it needs to be. For starters, how about we all recognize that every single Cup race is an all-star race. The drivers with the most active wins all race every weekend. The drivers who have won recent championships all show up. So aside from the goofy formats, nothing really seems all that All-Starry.
The focus here is not necessarily on killing the ASR but rather that if the event is going to continue to exist (and, of course, it will continue to exist because it is easy money for many involved). The big thing that comes to mind is that the sport needs to figure out the best venue for holding the event.
Charlotte had been the mainstay, hosting the ASR for nearly the entirety of its existence. Then in 2020, things changed. Bristol produced a tame result for something that is supposed to be wild and chaotic. The next year the ASR bounced to Texas, and the truth is, NASCAR solved a problem that may not have existed by trying to fix it with a venue that offered little comparative value to Charlotte.
In this weekʻs DYN, Bowles discussed how Kansas and Texas have turned into problematic tracks on the schedule, ones deserving scrutiny for having two race dates on the schedule. The evidence showcases how Texas has really become a challenging market with disappointing attendance numbers.
Empirical data suggests offers the notion that when there is evidence to support an argument then the argument is valid. In this case, not only is Texas not worthy of having two race dates, there should be suspicion that there is little to no value in holding the ASR there at all. There is every reason to believe that NASCAR is trying to help the track out by ʻgivingʻ it the ASR and to the appeal of no one.
So what to do?
First, ditch Texas. Not only does the track offer no historical significance but it also has not provided the theater for exciting competition that many hope for when bothering to watch the ASR. Second, do the smart thing…go to Miami.
If the recent F1 race in Miami has offered anything, it is that the city is meant to host over-hyped events for the benefit of the sport involved. Was there any reason for the Miami GP to register as high as it did in ratings and attention? Not really. It was a mid-season race with a new car on a new track where the beauty of the event was the newness and hype.
NASCAR should take a page from what F1 offered and figure out a way to make Homestead the place to be and sell the ASR as a spectacle, bringing in the stars and making a spectacle of things. If F1 can make s a proverbial splash with a fake marina then NASCAR can surely figure out a way to make Homestead seem like it is the Met Gala. This is not about the racing but the limited ideologies of how to make the sport seem like the fascinating wonderful monster that it is.
The ASR used to matter at one point. It used to be a convergence of star power and horsepower but it has been relegated to an afterthought, a mere curio on the calendar. Bringing new life to the event requires more than just tinkering with the format, it requires understanding that the unconventional might be the way to go.
About the author
As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.
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