The Frontstretch: All-Star Stinker: What Can Be Done To Bring Excitement Back To Charlotte by Mike Neff -- Monday May 23, 2011

Go to site navigation Go to article

The All-Star race is still the best All-Star event in professional sports. The competitors legitimately race all out like they do every week and the potential is there for fireworks between drivers as the event draws near its conclusion because the disparity between first and second place money is so great. Unfortunately, over the last few years the race has seemed to be more bark than bite, with all sorts of advertising and hype being put forth in advance of the event but most of the racing on the track not living up to it. The product is definitely great and still brings in a ton of fans, but there are a few things that could be altered that very well might make the night even better.

One of the elements of the race that used to add quite a bit of excitement was the invert. There were several different methods utilized to determine how many cars would be inverted which were designed to prevent drivers from sandbagging in order to have the best position to restart the final segment. Whatever the methodology, the invert put the cars that were running the best back in the pack and added excitement by forcing them to maneuver around cars that were not quite as good to get back to the front. The race would definitely benefit from having some kind of invert procedure that would put the best cars back in the pack, but give them more laps to make up those positions.

Another idea that has been floated from time to time but never implemented is having some sort of a heat structure. The field would be split into two separate heat races and four or five cars would transfer to the main event from each of the heat races. Then a last chance heat race would qualify one or two drivers for the main event. In conjunction with that format the Showdown would revert back to one driver transferring to the All-Star race and one fan vote driver. The Showdown is a race designed for people who have not qualified for the main event, it should not be setting 10% or more of the All-Star field. Having the heat races and the last chance race would provide three different races, in addition to the Showdown, that would involve some desperation driving where drivers are faced with the prospect of elimination more than once during the evening. A final elimination scenario that could also be added would be an implementation of the Australian rules to the main event where every lap or few laps the driver in last place must pull out of the race. It would add excitement to the back of the pack as well as the front.

One eligibility rule that should be revisited is the past champions and previous winners entries. Instead of putting a limit of 10 years on their eligibility, any past Cup Champion or All-Star winner who has raced in the current or previous season should be granted entry into the race. That would afford those champions the kind of recognition they deserve no matter how long in the tooth or how far into their careers they might be. It would most likely increase the size of the fields slightly and would allow older race fans the chance to cheer for their heroes again.

One of the elements of the All-Star event that seems to detract from the intense racing is that many of the teams, when they realize they can’t compete for the win, and some of them from the drop of the green flag, use the event as a test session for the Coca-Cola 600. Moving the event to the middle of the Summer would eliminate a large amount of that testing mentality, although it will never be completely removed. With the race taking place in July or August, the night race would be a welcome respite from the heat of a Summer day in Charlotte and would be an ideal midway break. One drawback to this idea is that the July race at Daytona has been traditionally the midway break.

The final suggestion to give an all or nothing feel to the event is eliminate the prize money for anyone other than the winners of whatever format the racing in the event takes. The winner of the Showdown would take home a set prize amount and the winner of any heat races would take home an amount and then the winner of the main event would take home a million dollars. Running for a million dollars is obviously a big incentive for any race car driver but, when faced with the potential of going home with a million dollars or nothing the incentive grows extensively. Getting over losing a million dollar race is a lot easier when you still take home over $200,000. Drivers will most certainly put their nose in places they normally wouldn’t when the difference is a check or no check.

The bottom line is that the drivers put on a great show every week in the Sprint Cup series and they’re currently putting on the same show with some slightly hightened enthusiasm in the All-Star race. However, there used to be more excitement and more desperation involved when the money in the sport wasn’t as big. A million dollars is still a lot of money to anyone, but the difference between Rusty Wallace dumping Darrell Waltrip for $240,000 or Dale Earnhardt running wide open in the grass of the infield and the gentlemanly nature of the events the last few years is night and day. The fans have shown they appreciate the All-Star race in Charlotte by showing for years and again this year with what looked like 100,000 people by the time the race started. In return they deserve to see a show like the ones that built the All-Star race into the spectacle that it was and should be and that can happen if there is more desperation involved.

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Beyond the Cockpit: Alexis DeJoria On The 300 mph Women of the NHRA
A Swan’s Broken Wings Equal NASCAR’s Next Concern?
Thinkin’ Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Pace Laps: Swan Racing’s Future, Fast Females and Dropping Out
Sprint Cup Series Facilities Can Build Upon Fan Experience by Looking to Their Roots


©2000 - 2008 Mike Neff and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

05/23/2011 08:59 AM

Inverting some, or all, the field after one of the segments is a good suggestion. But, maybe limiting the number of transfers from the Showdown should also be limited to just one. Also, people have often suggested that there be eliminations. In the All-Star race case, if you finish a segment and you are not on the lead lap, you are parked. It would save having idiots like the bonehead in ‘The Blue Deuce’ out there, 6-laps down, and being a hazard.

Sue Rarick
05/23/2011 11:48 AM

I have a couple ideas.
Have 2 shorter showdown heats with the winner from each transfereing to the All-Star race

All-Star weekend could also add an Old-Timers Race. Rather than adding them to the All-Star race. Any past Champion or winner of the All-Star race would be eligible. In deference to their age I would have them race nationwide cars rather than cup cars. 650 hp would be a bit easier to handle than 850 hp.

05/23/2011 12:24 PM

It’s a brutal race to try and watch on TV, with a few minutes of racing, and hours of yapping. ugh

05/23/2011 01:04 PM

Get rid of the mandatory four-tire stop with ten to go.

Bring back the inversion wheel of fortune.

Or perhaps the same idea, but with laps. Will the last segment be ten laps? Thirty? Another fifty laps? Make these guys really gamble on tires and fuel strategy. As it is now, the car out front knows he has ten laps to hold everyone off, and he doesn’t have to worry about his tires.

05/23/2011 03:12 PM

Here’s my idea for the race. Treat it like a short track race with heats, consies, last chance and feature.

No guaranteed starters. Qualify and you race in the feature.
Starting positions for the heats is based on the handicap system of average points per race.

Any driver who has run in a Cup race since the start of the year gets the points for the race and the total is used for handicapping. No points mean a start from the rear.

24 car starting field. Quality over quantity.

Three heat races based on points per race, lower to the front. Four cars from each heat go to the feature. Cars not qualified for the feature run one of two consolation races. Four from each consy go to the feature. Cars not qualified for the feature run a last chance race for the final four spots.

Heats and consies are ten or twelve laps. Last chance is 15 laps.
Feature is 30 or 35 laps, caution laps never counting.
Between the last chance and feature the non-qualified cars can run an Australian Pursuit while the feature cars are prepared.
The two top cars in the heats can run a 10 lap race to determine how they start in the feature.

The cars start the feature how they finished the heats, then consies and last chance.

A driver who doesn’t qualify for the feature can get in a car that did but starts scratch.

People seem to want to see racing, and short tracks really have it.

Carl D.
05/23/2011 03:19 PM

It’s a most convoluted format. Why not just include the last 20 race winners, the past all-star race winners, and the most recent past champion not to qualify otherwise, and the qualifying race winner. Then turn the field loose for 75 laps, with at least one pit stop for a mandatory tire change to include the pit crews. May the best team walk away with all the cash.

sylvia richardson
05/23/2011 05:04 PM


05/24/2011 12:00 AM

Cutting out the two hour intermission between races would help a lot.

I’d prefer a 20 lap race. No heats, no warmups, no showdowns. If you won a race in the last 12 months you’re in. No provisionals, no fan votes, no weaseling.

05/24/2011 07:41 AM

Andy has the right idea. Win and you’re in with no other rules other than maybe include pole winners also. There should be some reward for winning the pole since qualifying hs become useless in detemrmining who makes the race (except for one or two drivers per week).

05/24/2011 10:46 AM

For the guys that are running up front 1 million isn’t a big incentive. To you and me its a lot of money. Not so much to them. I’m not saying they don’t want to win, but I don’t see the do or die mentality Nascar wants us to believe is really there. They need a different carrot and I’m not sure its more money!

05/24/2011 02:10 PM

I have the best idea! Eliminate or do a major downsize of the spoiler and put more emphasis on driver ability-that will also get ride of “areo push” so it will be easier to pass!!


Contact Mike Neff

Recent articles from Mike Neff:

Thinkin' Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Special Winter Sprint Car Series set for January debut at Cocopah Speedway
Beyond the Cockpit with Ben Rhodes
Kroger 250 postponed until Sunday afternoon
Denny Hamlin out of the car for the race at Auto Club Speedway

Want to find out more about Mike Neff? Maybe see all the articles he's written here at the Frontstetch? Check out his article archive and bio page then!