NASCARâs annual All-Star Race never has made a great deal of sense because NASCARâs all-stars compete in every race â if they are not hurt or sick or suspended. Because the NASCAR Cup season is too dang long as it is, the non-points All-Star Race feels redundant, even though the format is pretty good.
So it might have been a little disappointing to see that the four premier partners had agreed to, as the news release noted, âcollectively own a presence connected to the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race and NASCAR All-Star Race.â But maybe not. Follow me here.
NASCAR wonât announce until next spring at the earliest what it plans to do with its Cup schedule in 2021 and beyond, but NASCAR has made it clear that it would like to add some variety to the tracks it races on. Even a street circuit near or in a big city has been mentioned.
Great idea, especially if it brings out non-âtenuredâ (or young) NASCAR fans. Road courses, like the famous track outside Watkins Glen, N.Y., often play host to races that look good on television and are fun to watch in person because they are a change of pace.
Unless NASCAR wants to add midweek Cup races in the summer in prime time â not a bad idea, either â there are only so many weekends in a season that has been too long for years. If races are added, races that have been on the schedule might have to be cut.
The All-Star Race could be one, but it is less likely that it will be lopped, because it is held at Charlotte Motor Speedway the weekend before the Coca-Cola 600, so drivers and their race teams stay close to home for two weeks before hitting the road for the summer grind.
Unlike other NASCAR traditions, the All-Star Race does not date back to the moonshine runners. The race has only been around since 1985, when it was known as The Winston, and there have been 13 different formats used, to simulate a Saturday night at the local track.
It is not exactly an âall-starâ race, either, because winners of a fan vote and the winners of the three-stage Winston Open for nonqualifiers are added to a field of champion drivers. Bubba Wallace made the biggest splash in 2019, literally, by winning a Winston Open stage.
The All-Star Race, a non-points race, offers a format that is a twist on 36 points races. But when you think of it, the format â a 50-lap qualifier, then two All-Star segments of 50 laps each and a 13-lap trophy dash â might be a great change of pace for a regular-season race.
So why canât it be a points race instead of just an âall-starâ race? It would be a better race. The fall playoff race on the road-course/oval hybrid at Charlotte seems like a keeper. The 2019 race drew 6% fewer viewers on NBC than in 2018, the year the ârovalâ was introduced.
Less travel, less fatigue. Another track might have to lose a race, or, as with Pocono will do in 2020, stack two Cup races on one weekend. NASCAR canât do a lot of that, but if it works at Pocono, it might work at places like Dover, Michigan and Kansas.
There will always be room on the Cup schedule for the long races â without those dumb stages â but there also can be room for races on different tracks and different formats. NASCAR wonât tip its hand about anything, as we know, but this would be a simple change. Wouldnât it?
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