The NASCAR Cup Series’ All-Star Race started in 1985 to much fanfare, and over the years it has had its share of legendary moments. However, Sunday’s (May 22) running of the event left a lot to be desired, and the ratings for the event reflected that the race was not well-received.
There were tire issues, a terrible caution call, confusing rules and controversy at Texas Motor Speedway, all of which made many wonder if the race has overstayed its welcome. Yet, many others think that the All-Star Race can survive, albeit with some tweaking. Joy Tomlinson and Stephen Stumpf debate whether or not NASCAR should do away with the All-Star Race.
Keep the All-Star Race
Don’t end the All-Star Race. Not yet, at least.
For one, it’s become more than a race; it’s a full-blown event. Texas Motor Speedway had a BMX stunt show, high dives, axe throwing and even a human cannonball there. Blake Shelton even showed up.
These activities and entertainment enhanced the atmosphere in the facility. I applaud the racetrack for doing something different and trying to make it fun for the whole family. But of course, the main reason why families go to a racetrack is to see a race.
Although the racing product wasn’t the best, it’s still a new car and had only 24 cars in the field (which went down to 20 before the end of stage two). Perhaps the teams didn’t want to do too much with their cars in case some parts got damaged? Maybe the traction compound forced there to be one main racing line. Whatever the cause is, we shouldn’t expect perfection from the Next Gen car.
But we also shouldn’t keep the race at Texas for years to come, either. So what can be done with the All-Star Race?
First, hold it at different venues every year, whether they’re on the NASCAR Cup circuit or new(ish) ones like North Wilkesboro Speedway. Even a road course could work, or maybe somewhere outside the United States. That helps to keep the racing exciting, because there’s always something different. Whichever track is chosen, though, keep in mind the weather that’s typical of the time of year in the area.
Second, change up the format. Make it a timed race, where whoever is first at the end of a set time is the winner. Or have one long stage of 150 laps, so teams can work with different pit strategies to get ahead of their rivals. Or have fans vote on the format of their choice, either before or during the race itself. Fans could vote whether they want an inversion, a required pit stop or maybe a race around the infield road course (depending on where the race is run).
What if we did half of the race at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park and the other half on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course?
And it’s an All-Star Race … why don’t we get some all stars from other series to join? Like from the Camping World Truck and Xfinity series, or even Formula 1 or NTT IndyCar Series or IMSA drivers? Of course, we’d have to make sure it’s fair for everyone, so all drivers would drive Cup cars.
Lastly, bring back underglow lights or have special markings on the cars that make it to the ASR. If the Open was run on a different day, then the markings (like stars or certain colors on their names on the front windshield) could be added to the cars before the main event.
Whatever we do with it, don’t burn it to the ground. There’s a lot of history behind this special event, including famous finishes (like that of “One Hot Night” in 1992). All it needs is something that will make people excited about the race, so that they’ll tune in the following weeks as drivers race for points.
Besides, the 2022 event got people talking. Why end it now? – Joy Tomlinson
Drop It and Make It an Off Weekend
There was a point in time where the All-Star Race was a prestigious and anticipated weekend on the calendar.
The same could also be said for the Brickyard 400, and the plug got pulled on that event last year.
Even discounting the dwindling lack of interest in the race, NASCAR and other auto racing series don’t benefit from an all-star competition like other sports do. In the NBA and MLB, only two teams out of 30 play each other on any given night. Therefore, the All-Star weekend gives a chance for fans of these leagues to see the biggest names all at once.
In NASCAR, the drivers race each other every single weekend. Every race is an All-Star Race. Therefore, the only point of interest for the All-Star Race — which doesn’t count for series points — is the grand prize of $1 million. When that is the only draw, the concept will get stale quickly if there is little excitement to go along with it on track.
What has also grown stale is the constant changes to the format, which has occurred partially in an attempt to find a format that sticks. The races from 2014-19 at Charlotte Motor Speedway had a different format every single year, and the two races at Texas have also had different formats. When there is a lack of continuity in the race, it becomes harder to follow and gain an interest in. The Daytona 500 wouldn’t be as popular if it alternated between variable lengths or a different number of stages each year.
If no format seems to work and there is a dwindling interest in the race, NASCAR would be better served to drop it. Just a few hours ago, the NFL announced that it is trying to improve its All-Star weekend; one of the proposals is the complete removal of the Pro Bowl game. If other leagues don’t see a reason to keep their All-Star events due to a lack of interest, NASCAR shouldn’t feel pressured to keep theirs.
The All-Star weekend would better be served as a week off, especially now that the traditional off-week at Easter has been removed from the schedule. Numerous Cup Series drivers remarked about how much they enjoyed the two-weekend break during the Summer Olympics at Tokyo, and this would give the teams and drivers a chance for a breather in what has become a compacted schedule. – Stephen Stumpf