Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: The Glam of All-Star Weekend

If you look at 2014 Sprint Cup Series schedule, you will notice that the next two races are at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s not rare for NASCAR to have two races at a specific track each year, but two in a row only happens at two tracks a year: Daytona and Charlotte.

Perhaps no time of year quite as closely matches the pageantry and prestige of Daytona Speedweeks, where the Sprint Unlimited, Duels, and Daytona 500 all run within two weeks that are surrounded by hype and build-up to get people excited about the beginning of the season. The weeks surrounding The Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 may not have the same build-up as the Daytona 500 because of the demand aspect. Speedweeks is the first event after the offseason. The All-Star Race is run after 11 points paying races, long after the withdrawal from racing has worn off.

Still, the constant events swirling around the All-Star Race gives it a more “fun” atmosphere than perhaps other races. With no points for the All-Star Race, the stress is off the shoulders of the teams, which creates more upbeat competitors and more wiggle room for NASCAR to get creative with the format of the race (as if they don’t do that anyway, but still…).

Given the near meaninglessness of the race—other than a $1 million payout and a glorified test session for the following week’s Coca-Cola 600—it’s a week for fans and competitors alike to sit back, relax, and enjoy what is usually a fun and eventful race. Usually.

Now onto your questions:

”I thought Carl Edwards had some interesting comments about Roush. He said “we have to win it now” about the team and the championship. Does that mean he’s leaving or that it’s a deciding factor in his re-signing? I just think it’s unfair to put the team in a position of HAVING to win a championship when it’s not necessarily that simple.” Dustin

I don’t think that he actually went to Jack Roush and said “If we don’t win the championship this year, I’m leaving.” It seems more to me that if he doesn’t feel like they are strong, legitimate championship contenders that year, he sees no need to return. You’re right, it’s not fair to say “championship or I’m gone” when there is more to winning the championship than your team alone. All it takes is an ill-timed caution or another competitor hitting you on pit road and suddenly those five positions on track mean a lot more come Homestead.

However, I don’t think it’s unfair for Edwards to say that he expects to be competitive this year or else he’s out the door. Roush Fenway Racing is supposed to be, and has been, a championship caliber team. Heck, it’s only been three years since Edwards tied for the championship with Tony Stewart. RFR obviously has the potential to be up-to-par with Hendrick Motorsports, Penske Racing, and Joe Gibbs Racing. They were stronger than all of them in years prior. But Edwards doesn’t want to wait around until they get back to that level.

Now, honestly, I interpreted Edwards’ comment to mean “We have to win the championship because I’m leaving at the end of the year.” I felt like it was less of a deal-breaker and more of a line of thinking that he wants to finish his tenure with team off on a high note. We’ve heard similar comments from lame duck drivers before and that’s immediately what I thought when I read the quotes from Edwards.

Whatever it means, though, I think this is a make or break time for RFR. They are quickly becoming a team that free agent drivers “settle for” as opposed to a team that everyone wants to drive for.

”Kurt Busch seems awfully interested in other racing series. He’s running the Indy 500 and he did a thing with NHRA a few years ago. Is he trying to leave the sport? I don’t think anyone would miss him if he left…” Eric

I think you’re wrong that he wouldn’t be missed. He has plenty of fans and, despite his raging over the radio, his team surely cares about him. I bet they would care more if they were more competitive, but I digress.

Honestly, though, I think Busch enjoys racing in non-pressure situations. Obviously, he’s not the most level-headed driver when things get difficult, and his stress-level management seems to be lacking. So when he competes in NHRA and IndyCar events (or wherever he goes next), there isn’t any actual pressure. Of course he wants to do the very best he can, but there is no real pressure or expectation for him to actually follow through. He is just doing those events for the fun of it because he enjoys it.

Now, does that mean he isn’t somewhat exploring the idea of going to another series after some time in the Cup Series? I’m not going to say no. He certainly might be. Plenty of drivers have gone from IndyCar, to NASCAR, and back again. Maybe when (or if) Busch decides NASCAR isn’t fun anymore, he’ll get back with some of his motorsports contacts and decide he wants to devote his attention to learning a new trade.

I think you’re wrong, though, in saying he wouldn’t be missed. He would just have to be followed elsewhere.

“Hey Summer, I had a question about the Showdown/All-Star race this weekend and was wondering if you might have the answer? Do the drivers who transfer from the Showdown get to qualify their cars for their positions in the All-Star race? Or will they start in the back, as has been the custom in years past?” Tim

Since the Sprint Showdown is now being run the day before the Sprint All-Star Race, the two Showdown transfers and the Fan Vote winner will be able to participate in qualifying. Basically, what will happen is the Sprint Showdown will be run on Friday night and the top two drivers will transfer to the main race, as per usual. The Sprint Fan Vote winner will then be announced in Victory Lane and the day’s events for the Cup Series are over.

On Saturday, prior to the All-Star Race, all of the eligible All-Star Race drivers, plus the Showdown transfers and the Fan Vote winner, will make a three-lap qualifying run with a mandatory four-tire pitstop. That’s right, no knockout qualifying for the All-Star Race. They will still maintain the qualifying run with a pitstop, which, considering the Pit Crew Challenge has gone away, is a great move in order to give a little spotlight to the pit crews.

I think I still prefer the Showdown winners and the Fan Vote winners starting at the back since they weren’t eligible in the first place. Generally, if a driver transfers from an LCQ (which is what the Sprint Showdown is), you start in the back, so I don’t think it should be any different here. Still, those are the rules, and it will be interesting to see something different.

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