This week’s Fronstretch debate question: NASCAR announced a new format for the 2017 All-Star Race, paying homage to 1992’s “One Hot Night” on the 25th anniversary of the event. The 70-lap race will consist of four segments, three of 20 laps with the final being a 10-lap shootout. Goodyear will also provide an option for a softer, faster tire to use at any juncture of the race.
Will this new format be a success and put on a good show, or will the constant stoppages interrupt the flow of the natural race, causing fans to be turned off?
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
With the implementation of the new stage format for the 2017 season, NASCAR hit a home run.
And with the newly announced All-Star race format, paying tribute to “One Hot Night” on the 25th anniversary of the event, it hit another one.
Sure, there are some things in this format that can be improved. But for now, I’m satisfied and excited about the changes that came about for the annual event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Most fans can agree that the stage racing has been a positive surprise thus far. There were plenty of skeptics before cars even hit the track in Daytona. But now that we are seven races into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, I think the prevailing sentiment in the garage, and the grandstands, is that stage racing was a good move for the sport.
Yes, I know the All-Star Race has had stages before. But this one is different. The 10-lap shootout at the end will only feature 10 cars. That’s a new wrinkle to this year’s format: rewarding drivers for their performance throughout the race, but then completely eliminating the other ones from competition.
The new tire option, of being able to choose the softer compound, will most likely take place in the final stage as well. Let’s say four of the 10 drivers opt to put on the softer “option” tire to start the final stage. They will have to start at the rear, meaning we will be seeing a ton of action on track. Cars will be high, low, in the middle, and everywhere in between. There is sure to be some contact while fighting for position, too.
After all, these drivers are racing for a hearty $1 million.
Sure, the final stage is short. But what else is NASCAR going to do? It seems as if there has been a movement to shorten races, as Kevin Harvick addressed on his SiriusXM radio show, “Happy Hours” this Tuesday evening. You don’t want an All-Star race that’s 400-500 miles, and you don’t want one that’s 100 miles either. NASCAR is constantly in a lose-lose situation, but they won here.
Heck, maybe some of the things they do in the 2017 All-Star Race can even make their way into each and every week of the NASCAR schedule. Formula 1 has multiple different tire options each week, which creates the opportunity for the team strategists (A.K.A. crew chiefs) to out-strategize their opponents. Why couldn’t Goodyear bring an “option” tire to every track, every week?
Sure, it would be a financial expense. But at the end of the day, the racing would be better. Granted, let’s allow this year’s race with the different tire option to play out before we (myself included, duh) make any judgements. But I don’t see how this could be a negative.
Limit the teams to using the option tire twice per weekend (once per race, once throughout all practice sessions). Have them use them whenever they choose and behold: another aspect of strategy and gamesmanship to be monitored throughout the race.
Regardless, drivers will be up on that wheel, elbows up, racing hard for the $1 million at stake. And they’re all All-Stars for a reason. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. “One Hot” show.
If It’s Broke, Don’t Break it Further
The quality of racing in the All-Star Race has not been all that great in the last 25 years, and it will degrade even more with the new format.
NASCAR is desperately trying to relive the old days of the All-Star Race, such as 1987’s “Pass in the Grass,” 1992’s “One Hot Night,” and the 1989 edition where Rusty Wallace spun Darrell Waltrip for the win. They’ve gone as far as to make the event the same number of laps as the 1992 race.
The huge difference, and the reason why this year’s edition of the All-Star Race will not work, is because it will be broken into four extremely short segments.
I agree that the final segment should be a 10-lap shootout. Last year’s had a 13-lap shootout and it worked incredibly well as the 2016 All-Star Race had a pass for the win in the final segment.
But 20 laps is nothing. Having three segments running at 20 laps a piece will completely screw up the flow of the race.
A lap at Charlotte Motor Speedway typically takes just under 30 seconds under green flag conditions. Say all 20 laps of a segment go green, that gives the fans a little less than 10 minutes of entertainment.
Just when things are starting to get interesting, the segment ends, and the audience is hit with an obnoxiously long break between the segments. My estimate is that the breaks in between the segments will last longer than the segments themselves.
Sure, it will be exciting to see who wins each stage, but adding a whole new segment break to the event will bore the viewers out of their minds.
Think how many people will tune in, watch some great racing, and then tune out when the race keeps stopping over and over again. It would not be as big of a deal is NASCAR did not take its precious time with the stage breaks––those things feel eternal. There is no debris or oil on the track for those caution periods, why does NASCAR feel the need to run 10+ caution laps.
The elimination for the final segment is a great idea, and guaranteeing the segment winners into the final shootout would have been great too, had the average finish not been taken into account.
Because the final 10 cars will consist of at least seven drivers with the best average finish through the first three segments, the aggression will be fairly low until the end.
For example, if a driver has finished second in the first two segments and is running second in the third, why would they try to get around the leader to win the third segment when they can just drive conservatively and advance?
It is as if NASCAR made a great move and then immediately shot themselves in the foot afterward.
Also, how boring is it going to be if the same driver wins the first three segments? Having a debate about which nine have the highest average finish to advance to final stage is not my idea of an entertaining race.
We are going to be stuck with three subpar segments before an amazing shootout. By the time the final 10-lap segment comes, will anyone be watching?
The 1992 All-Star Race worked because it had three segments. Davey Allison dominated the first 30-lap segment and the field was inverted to send Allison to the back. Kyle Petty dominated the second 30-lap segment. It was not stellar racing for those first 60 laps, but it set a tone and built up the anticipation for the final segment, when the two dominant cars of Allison and Petty finally clashed, literally.
All of the stopping and starting that will occur in this year’s All-Star Race will not set a tone, as the first segment and the final segment will feel lifetimes away after NASCAR gives us three commercial-driven 10+-minute breaks.
The 2017 All-Star Race will not be pretty, but at least it has still got the National Football League’s Pro Bowl beat.