Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Does Winning the All-Star Race Matter Anymore?

Does winning the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race matter anymore? If not, what could be done to reestablish its prestige?

Steve Leffew: Winning the All-Star Race matters this year. A win provides a team with a big infusion of cash and pride. The pride piece was watered down in recent years as the format was tweaked over and over, sometimes into something so convoluted it was hard to follow. The format for this season’s All-Star Race gets back to basics and brings the whole team into the equation in a major way with the pit crew competition setting the heat lineups. Plus, who doesn’t want to be the first driver and team to win at North Wilkesboro Speedway since Jeff Gordon in 1996?

Garrett Cook: This is a tricky question. Being an All-Star winner is certainly a prestigious title for a Cup Series driver to gain. However, now that NASCAR seems to be moving the race around to different tracks, it will increase the prestige of such a win. This year’s All-Star Race in particular is probably the most prestigious in recent memory, save for the 2020 edition that was run at Bristol Motor Speedway. To say you won the first Cup Series race at North Wilkesboro in 27 years, that’s what prestige is all about

Mark Kristl: No, it doesn’t matter. Cup drivers are now judged by essentially three criteria: Daytona 500 wins, career wins and career championships. Plus, thanks to inflation, $1 million isn’t as much money anymore, nor do Cup teams need it. As for what can be done, either offer the winner a playoff point or something which could make a difference in their quest to win the title. Or award the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champions sponsorship to compete in that race, truly making it NASCAR’s all-stars.

Andrew Stoddard: Oh, it matters alright. In fact, I can think of about one million reasons winning the All-Star Race matters. Money aside, winning the All-Star Race is an accomplishment that still appears prominently on each past winner’s resume, even if the event has fallen on hard times the past few seasons. The prestige of the All-Star Race could start trending upward again depending on how this Sunday goes.

Stephen Stumpf: It does now with North Wilkesboro. Who wouldn’t want to be the first Cup driver to claim the grand prize in NASCAR’s field of dreams? The All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro isn’t confirmed beyond 2024, however. And if the weekend has to start back at square one, the event needs to have some form of consistency. The stages and gimmicks for the event have changed every single year since 2015.

Should the All-Star Race stay at North Wilkesboro or should it rotate among other racetracks?

Cook: I kind of answered this question with my last answer but, for me, it is an undisputed “yes.” I’m old enough to remember the late 2000s and 2010s versions of the All-Star race when it was exclusively held in Charlotte. Eventually, the race became confusing with its format and flat-out boring to watch at times. Gone was the sheen of 1992’s “One Hot Night,” and in its place was “A Boring Two Weeks,” as a snoozer of a Coca-Cola 600 was sure to follow. Almost every other sport moves its All-Star event to different cities around the country. Why not NASCAR? Personally, I’m all for an All-Star Race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, commonly referred to as Spa, next season.

Stoddard: Every other major American sport (NFL, NBA, MLB, etc.) rotates its all-star events to different cities/venues every year. While fans bristle at the thought of NASCAR trying to emulate other sports, this is one aspect where it should be by having the All-Star Race at a different track from year to year. A good five-year rotation for the event could include North Wilkesboro, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Daytona International Speedway road course, and Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (once it is ready for NASCAR competition). That rotation includes a wide variety of tracks and cuts down on travel with all five of them being in the Southeast.

Leffew: NASCAR has finally hit on something with having the All-Star race at North Wilkesboro. It’s close enough to most of the teams. It’s in the heart of NASCAR country. It carries its own type of prestige just because of the legendary mystique that surrounds it. It’s a great venue for the All-Star race. The question moving forward will be, does North Wilkesboro deserve a points-paying race? If so, a rotation to other venues could be the next option.

Stumpf: I think that comes down to whether or not North Wilkesboro gets added as a points-paying race for 2024. It’s certainly possible to do both, but as I mentioned in the first question, it’s not a guarantee. But given the constant changes to the event every single year, it would do the All-Star Race well to run it at North Wilkesboro for at least a few years.

Kristl: Keep it at North Wilkesboro for a few years, but don’t make it a permanent change. Rotate it to other short tracks such as Hickory Motor Speedway, Five Flags Speedway, etc. to truly make the All-Star Race unique.

Trackhouse Racing team owner Justin Marks told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Ross Chastain “has got some things he’s got to clean up. We, today, started a process of more aggressively handling that.” Do you believe Marks?

Stumpf: With both Kyle Larson and Rick Hendrick voicing their frustrations in the last incident, there are likely people from both Chevrolet and from other teams that are in Justin Marks’ ear. Darlington Raceway was also different in that it was the first major controversy with Ross Chastain where the No. 1 team ended the race with a totaled car – a car fast enough to win the race, no less. But with Chastain in the headlines numerous times this past month, Marks had to make a response to the growing criticism whether he wanted to or not.

Leffew: I believe Marks. I can picture him saying to Chastain behind closed doors, “Hey, I’m not mad at you, I love how you drive and you are gaining so many fans … but we’re taking a lot of heat. Let’s clean it up and cool it down for a while.” It seems clear there was some pressure put on by Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports. If Trackhouse wants to remain in Chevy’s good graces, it will need Chastain to wreck other Chevrolets, including himself, less frequently.

The Darlington mishap was the worst of all the incidents so far. He ran an excellent race and was in the driver’s seat to beat the consensus most talented driver on the best team in a heads-up shootout. It would’ve been the biggest win of his career and an end to his winless streak. Instead, he wanted to be rough with Larson, over-drove and wrecked himself and Larson in the process. This one was the most dubious and the least defendable. This was the first time where Chastain really messed up and couldn’t blame other drivers, racing deals or circumstances. But because of all the prior incidents, there is even more scrutiny being levied on the watermelon farmer now.

Marks heard Hendrick’s words about it being hard to win a championship when you have a lot of paybacks out there. Chastain could be on his way to wracking up a karma bill he and Marks can’t afford to pay.

Stoddard: The first half of Marks’ statement is believable. While Chastain has brought attention to the Cup Series over the past couple of seasons, particularly with the Hail Melon, his weekly escapades are starting to detract from the bigger picture of the championship hunt. As for the second half of Marks’ quote, there needs to be a long-term pattern of Chastain racing smarter and with more respect for other drivers in the future before his words can fully be trusted.

Kristl: Marks is sincere because two top Chevy drivers, including Chastain, ended up with damaged racecars. Having said that, based on Chastain’s on-track actions in Cup, I won’t believe Marks’ words sunk in until Chastain makes noticeable changes to his driving style.

Cook: Marks absolutely has to at least try, and I believe he will. When someone as revered as Hendrick calls out your driver and your operation publicly, you have to take that seriously. Hendrick holds a lot of weight with Chevy, of course, and if Marks wants to stay connected with them, he has no choice. Whether or not Chastain will be receptive to that is entirely up in the air, though.

See also
Stat Sheet: The Final 5% of a Race Might As Well Be a Different Race if There Are Multiple Restarts

Cup drivers are barred from competing in the Xfinity Series race at the Chicago Street Course yet they can compete in the Truck Series race at North Wilkesboro. Are you OK with this double standard?

Kristl: I am never in favor of inconsistency from series officials. With the newness of the Chicago Street Course, I would support Cup drivers double dipping into the Xfinity Series. Other than the season-opening races, the regular season finale, the playoffs and the two series special races — the Dash 4 Cash and the Triple Truck Challenge — Cup drivers should be allowed to compete in as many as five Xfinity and Truck races as per the limit. Series officials shouldn’t enact other rules for that.

Cook: 100%, this is probably the worst call NASCAR has made regarding the Chicago Street Race and the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro. There are multiple reasons for this in my mind, but foremost is that the race in Chicago is a points-paying event. The fact that Cup drivers won’t get the opportunity to compete in some live contact racing at a facility that has never been raced on and will be expected to race for points on that surface is asinine. Sure, there will be practice and such, but nothing beats a full-contact, live scenario when you’re preparing for something. It’s made worse by the fact that the All-Star Race is an exhibition, with nothing on the line but $1 million. That’s not to say these guys should get to run Trucks or late models this week. They absolutely should. Just seems silly not to have the same option when points are at stake in Chicago.

Leffew: North Wilkesboro is an oval; the Chicago Street Course is something completely different and unprecedented. Driving in the Xfinity race would provide a huge advantage for drivers as they could zero in on braking points and get a feel for the track surface. North Wilkesboro is certainly unique in its own ways, but running the Truck race would not provide the same level of competitive advantage that running the Xfinity street course race would.

Stumpf: Cup drivers have been allowed to compete in a lower series race at a brand new track in the past, specifically Circuit of the Americas, Nashville Superspeedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track, among others. To allow Cup drivers in the Truck race at North Wilkesboro but not for the Xfinity Series race at the Chicago Street Course is a perplexing decision (unless barring Cup drivers from lower series races at new tracks will be the precedent going forward).

Stoddard: It seems like an inconsistent ruling on NASCAR’s part. If Cup Series drivers feel like they need more laps at the Chicago Street Course, they should get that chance, just like they are getting with the Trucks at North Wilkesboro. This is especially true considering street courses like Chicago mark a whole new frontier for the Cup Series.

About the author

Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

Steve Leffew joined Frontstretch in 2023, and covers the Xfinity Series. He resides in Wisconsin and has been a NASCAR fan as long as he can remember. He has served honorably in the United States Air Force and works during the week as a Real Estate Lender.

Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He has a new day job as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

Garrett joined Frontstretch as a news writer in 2023, and became a fantasy racing and betting writer in 2024. Hailing from the heart of coal country in southern West Virginia,  he's a married father of three and currently enrolled in the Physical Therapy Assistant Program at New River Community Technical College in Beaver, WV. He has been a racing fan since 1998, primarily watching NASCAR, but branching out to F1 and IndyCar as his love for motorsports has grown.

Follow on X @Cook_g9

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

3 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
chastainfanbecausemoose

The million dollars does matter. Prize money is less than it ever was and teams need the money, because they are struggling to find sponsors. Also, North Wilkesburo should get a points race and Fairgrounds should get the All Star race.

DoninAjax

I’m sure Marks would be OK with Ross not punting Hamlin or anyone else to win one of NA$CAR’s events and finishing second.

Echo

Naw, let him always punt Hamlin. Let others slide.

Share via