It’s no secret NASCAR’s All-Star Race wasn’t exactly an A+ effort last weekend. That said, let’s keep in mind all-star events for the other major U.S. sports have pretty much been duds for the last several years. The NFL’s Pro Bowl changes the rules to significantly decrease the chance for injury. In the NBA and NHL, defense is nonexistent in those events because, well, no one wants to get hurt. In Major League Baseball, after some lackluster All-Star Games they had to sweeten the pot by saying the winning league gets homefield advantage in the World Series. None of those sports can compare to what NASCAR had with its All-Star event Saturday night in Charlotte, a truly competitive and exciting event.
No other sport can mimic what NASCAR did Saturday night. There were battles for the lead and then, in the final segment, a true down-to-earth battle for the win. Sure, it wasn’t perfect but what you saw wasn’t som of this pretend stuff like we see in other sports’ All-Star event. You know, where it’s like I’m kind of competing, not really competing because we don’t want to hurt anyone else and we certainly don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings in an event that doesn’t count. None of those things were on the mind of Joey Logano and Kyle Larson as they battled for the win in the final laps. So good for them, good for NASCAR and good for the fans, too.
Yes, it’s true, the first time doing the All-Star race this way the rules were confusing at times. So, as is often the case when something is new there can be a bit of consternation about how it all works. The only thing I would change about the format is in the final segment, instead of having just the first two cars on old tires, make it something like the first six cars on old tires. It might make that final restart a little safer, but also still have the competition of cars on new tires passing the cars on old ones.
It’s true this event wasn’t a points race but maybe the win by Logano will be just what the team needs. It’s been a bit of surprise that the No. 22 has gone winless so far this season and has led just 113 laps. There’s nothing like a trip to Victory Lane and the $1 million prize to give Logano and his team a little boost.
The one real downer for the weekend at Charlotte was weather. It cancelled the Friday night events and then everything had to be squeezed in between rain showers on Saturday. It makes for an extremely long day for everyone, a supposedly special event that lasted right up until midnight.
Dipping into the IndyCar Series for a second it was a great story to see James Hinchcliffe take the pole for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. It was Hinchcliffe who nearly lost his life last year in an accident at Indy, so to see him take the top spot in the final run of the day in the fast nine qualifying format made for some Sunday excitement for us auto racing fans. Plus, it was also great to see several NASCAR drivers support Hinchcliffe by sending out congratulatory tweets.
Matt Kenseth got his first win at Dover last week, but it’s been pretty much all downhill since then. First, during the first segment of the All-Star race, he and crew chief Jason Ratcliff chose to gamble and make the mandatory green flag pit stop late. Well, a late caution threw a wrench into those plans, costing Kenseth a one-lap penalty. Then, Kenseth was involved in an accident that also took out Tony Stewart which ended both of their nights.
Finally, Kenseth’s primary sponsor, Dollar General, announced it was pulling out of sponsorship for him after the 2016 season. Things can only get better for the No. 20 team this weekend.
Prediction: In past years, the All-Star race has been a nice preview for picking the winner of the 600-miler at Charlotte. But I’m not sure, considering all the different rules NASCAR employed there we got much of a preview this time. So, this week, I’m going to go with Denny Hamlin (this after an internal debate on which Gibbs driver to pick).
The deep sleeper, super underdog, someone you might not to think of picking this week is Austin Dillon. The No. 3 team has been pretty consistent this year in its finishes and also has a knack for improving as the race goes on. With an extra 100 or 200 miles Sunday night maybe now will be the time for Dillon to pick up his first Sprint Cup victory.