The Frontstretch: All-Star Gimmicks Gone Wrong by Summer Bedgood -- Sunday May 19, 2013

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All-Star Gimmicks Gone Wrong

Summer Bedgood · Sunday May 19, 2013

 

I just love the All-Star weekend. It’s full of excitement, glitz, glamour, and the anticipation for the event typically builds up for months. It’s a no-holds-barred, fight to the finish where the only thing that matters is the checkered flag. Everything else is simply history.

The All-Star race has quite a history in NASCAR, running yearly since 1985. It’s a traditional touch to the sport that sometimes deals with inconsistency.

The confusion over the running order that set up this final segment restart left many fans scratching their heads at the All-Star Race.

As traditional as the race itself, though, is the changing of its format. The event, ranging from one segment to five since the first race, has changed roughly 11 times since the inaugural edition. And that’s just the segment variations. Inversions, eliminations, mandatory pit stops, and individual segment “winners” who receive bonuses have just been a few of the gimmicks the race has featured. Some fans loved them and some hated them; but, more often than not, it created some drama that made the highlight reels for years to come.

This year’s format, however, may have been the most asinine change of all. NASCAR, reacting to last year’s disaster that had several drivers sandbagging until the final 10-lap shootout, decided to introduce a format so complicated that even the SPEED booth couldn’t keep up.

In order to give the drivers heavier incentive to keep racing the entire event rather than just the final segment, NASCAR decided to take each drivers’ average finish from the first four segments and line them up accordingly for their final pit stop. How they came off of pit road, after that stop would determine the running order for the final few laps.

And it was just so stupid. The first time I read through the press release, I had to re-read it a few times just to make sure I understood everything correctly. So when the race started, I was already frustrated because I knew it would be nearly impossible to keep up.

It was. No one even tried to keep pace with average finishes until the fourth segment, and then the calculators started flying. SPEED, who was broadcasting the race, barely mentioned it during the first few segments but introduced a new graphic afterwards to give fans an idea of what to expect after the fourth one. It turned out that the formulas they plugged in didn’t work, because viewers about had a conniption when SPEED had Jimmie Johnson towards the back of the top 10 yet NASCAR put him in fourth. It helped him eventually win the race, and it wasn’t lost on viewers sick of seeing Johnson in Victory Lane.

It was seriously ridiculous, and this mistake is not a knock on SPEED. You shouldn’t have to do math to be able to understand what is going on in a race. Less is more, and this type of warped format is not what fans want to see. Even SPEED and other media members who follow the sport for a living couldn’t keep up. How on earth are fans supposed to? What about people tuning in for the first time? Does NASCAR actually think people who are new to the sport can figure out what is going on?

Honestly, there are a host of other things NASCAR can do to spice up the competition. While I’m not a big fan of either inversions or eliminations, for a variety of reasons, I do think there are ways to keep the race interesting from beginning to end. First of all, I actually did like the $1 million bonus for a driver who could win every single segment. Nothing incentivizes these teams like cold, hard cash.

Additionally, last year’s format wasn’t bad, in theory. They just need to reverse it. Instead of the winner of the first segment starting first in the last segment, they start fourth. The winner of the second segment starts third, etc. That way, the driver who wins the first segment still has incentive to try and better his starting position in the final one. It’s not the simplest format, but it doesn’t require calculators, and I think provides some incentive.

There is a running theme that slightly disturbs me about all these ideas, though. Yes, the All-Star Race has nearly always involved some sort of gimmick. It’s part of what makes it fun. But, honestly, are our attention spans so short that we aren’t prepared to pay attention for a mere 90 laps? Do we really need complicated formats to hold our attention for that short of a race?

When a normal race hits the “90 to go” mark, that’s normally when I start getting excited. That’s “go time” in a normal race. So can’t we just have a regular event without needing something gimmicky to hold our attention? Or is that just a staple of the All-Star Race? Because, to me, it seems a little depressing that we’re thinking of new monkey wrenches to throw into this competition when it’s not even that long to begin with.

Anyway, the point is that NASCAR cannot keep the race this complicated. It needs to be much simpler to follow and easier to understand. Then, once they do that, they need to stick with the format because I’m tired of having to re-learn it every year. Am I right?!

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amazed
05/20/2013 01:53 AM
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Well Nascar’s infamous duo figured it out to win last night, so I don’t think they care about us mortals who spend their hard earned dollars to invest their time to watch the bologna that people are getting really sick of and getting more vocal then ever about it…Thank Goodness!

RickP
05/20/2013 08:09 AM
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Figuring out the positions based on the average finish spots isn’t that hard. It’s just hard for the idiots in the Fox booth which again proved what has been thought of them for many seasons now.

Bill B
05/20/2013 08:32 AM
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Next year, if they let me know an hour ahead of time, I can send them an Excel Spreadsheet template that will figure out the final starting order based on average finish. All they need to do is enter the finishing order after each segment.
I would have thought they’d already have someone there that could do that

djrichiep
05/20/2013 08:44 AM
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It was my understanding that there would be no math.

Fed Up
05/20/2013 09:08 AM
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It’s fourth grade math! Leaves out DW, Mac and the zoom-lens crew.

budsudz
05/20/2013 09:16 AM
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Rick and Bill have it right. This is a simple spreadsheet and all they had to do was to plug in the final 20 lap finish to get instant results. Fox/Speed should have been showing the average finish after the 2nd and 3rd segments as well. Rather than hyping Danica and the usuals, they should have been hyping the format. In all actuality, this was one of the better formats they have come up with. You have to reduce corner speeds (ie tire wear or slow the cars down) in order to fix racing on the 1.5 milers.
What made the racing of the 90’s great was that the cars could not run wide open. I was NEVER an Earnhardt fan, but watching him drive a car deeper into a corner and come out clean on the other side was a thrill to watch (as was his execution of a crossover move at Darlington). This happened due to slower corner speeds.
Extend the final segment to 20 laps and keep this one or run a 100 laps race, straight up, with only green flag laps counting.
Also, the “Open” needs to be expanded back to a 50-70 lap event.
Knaus’s solution about a special softer tire compound would be a good idea as well.

tom
05/20/2013 09:16 AM
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Fox’s mistake notwithstanding, I liked the running position element. It helps get rid of drivers coasting until the end of a race. Nascar ought to incorporate the concept into the regular season in some way to make it important for the 15th place driver to really try hard for the 14th spot halfway through a race.

jerseygirl
05/20/2013 09:22 AM
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I used to love this event, too. However the past 5 yrs have produced a borefest of predictability and this year was no different. Did anyone really think Danica wasn’t going to get the fan vote? Or think Johnson wasn’t going to win it at Charlotte again?

It is all so predictable and not very interesting to watch.

I did think NASCAR working out a way to not allow “sandbagging” was the one bright spot in the concept. Then of course, NASCAR was too slow on the math and Fox was wrong. Whee, are you smarter than a 5th grader?

Jim
05/20/2013 10:01 AM
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Once again bizarro and crazy as well as stupid comes to mind. The Emperor has again gone off the deep end. Who knows what that moron will come up with next!

Don
05/20/2013 10:05 AM
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I suspect that Nascar was slow on their numbers because they realized that the 48 was going to be up front and win again. So they rechecked and rechecked. LOL.

Between Danica and Jimmie, what’s the point anymore? The whole thing was just….GOOFY. And very WWE-like.

banzaibonnie
05/20/2013 11:25 AM
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What true fans SHOULD be mad about is the huge group of know-nothings that controlled the fan vote,depriving a true contender from getting in.

Jim
05/20/2013 12:52 PM
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banzaib…. you could not be more correct. Princess Trick Pony is no All-Star and and had no business being there. Goes to show what $$$$$$ can buy!

Kevin in SoCal
05/20/2013 01:02 PM
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I agree with the above posters who commented that it was simple math. Computing average finish should not be difficult for the average person, or maybe I’m just being optimistic. Its not like we’re computing average running position per lap.
I’d also like to see the Showdown lengthened a bit to include a pit stop for fuel.
Lastly, instead of stopping every 20 laps in the final All-Star Race, just keep racing. Record the positions at 20, 40, and 60 laps, then throw the yellow flag at lap 80 and sort them out for the final 10 lap race.

DMan
05/20/2013 02:11 PM
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Funny how everyone’s focus is on a simple broadcast mistake. So what? The real problem lies in the gimmicky format that gets gimmickier each year. give us a 40 lap qualifier (done—don’t change it) and 100 laps of racing instead of this 20-20-20-20-10 BS…and change the venue each year. NA$CAR wants to be a stick and ball sport, and stick and ball sports spread the all-star events around.

Carl D.
05/20/2013 02:46 PM
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One race… 90 Laps. One mandatory pit stop for four tires. Drivers get $10,000 per lap led, so drivers will try to lead every lap. The winner gets another $1,000,000. No gimmicks, no math problems, no BS… just hard racing for every lap.

Joe
05/20/2013 03:30 PM
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After two laps one car is leading, usually a big lead, and it’s almost impossible for anyone to catch him unless the leader has an issue.

Hey didn’t Jr. kinda say what Hamlin said earlier this year?

mrclause
05/20/2013 03:40 PM
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100 laps, 3 mandatory 4 tire stops at the time teams chose to make them,
full body and safety rules as usual, but, let the engine guy’s build the engine they want, no limit, no gear rules. Run what you brung.

Bill B
05/20/2013 06:19 PM
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LOL. I love all the ideas everyone is throwing out there to make it better. I am afraid that racing at the 1.5 milers is unfixable. But keep trying to polish that turd. LOL

SteveS
05/20/2013 10:49 PM
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How about 4 30 lap races with the drivers split into 4 groups. The starting positions are based on qualifying (i.e. fastest starts 1st in the 1st race, 2nd fastest starts 1st in the second race….) then they take the finish orders from each race to set the line up for a final 40 lap race with a mandatory 4 tire stop under the green.

I like mrclaus’ open engine rule except for the small teams that do not have the resources that the big teams have.

In review, the race was a joke again.