1. The venue
The All-Star Race has been held at Charlotte Motor Speedway for many years, and quite a few fans feel that it’s time for a change. Is it?
From the fans’ point of view, sure. Charlotte doesn’t produce a lot of door-to-door racing anymore, and moving the race around would give more fans an opportunity to see an All-Star event in person.
On the other hand, Charlotte is home base to most of the teams; all but Furniture Row Racing are based in the region. That means the teams, who this race is really about, get to spend the weekend at home with their families. Crew members’ families are often in attendance for this event, with its more relaxed atmosphere, and would not get to be there otherwise.
This race is about those people and showcasing the best among them. They should have the final say in this one, whether that’s to stay in Charlotte or move the race to another venue. Perhaps Bristol or Martinsville, both of which are within about a three-hour drive from the Charlotte area and have lights for a nighttime show, would be a good option. And if the teams don’t want the race moved? It shouldn’t be. Again, it’s about them for this one week.
2. The cars
While fans cringe at the mere mention of restrictor plates (and they’re not necessarily wrong), the All-Star event is the perfect time to try something different that might improve the racing. If it doesn’t, no harm, no foul. If it does, NASCAR has something it knows works under race conditions which can maybe be used going forward to improve the racing for the fans every week. That’s never a bad thing.
On the other hand, there’s something about making the All-Star Race a “run what you brung” deal, where if the engine is legal, the tires and safety features are unaltered and the body fits the templates, teams are free to do whatever they can to find speed. From gears to suspensions, leave it all on the table and see who can really build the fastest car and who can drive it. A free-for-all might open a few eyes, and it would keep the teams from being too conservative in order to test for the following week’s Coca-Cola 600, also run at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 16, 2018
3. The format
This year’s format is basically a regular race with shorter stages. It’s easy to understand, but were NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway even trying? What happened to the mandatory pit stops, which allowed strategy to come into play? What happened to things like inverting the field randomly, or eliminating the cars at the back, or other such things. This race is the one where the gimmicks fit. I hate the gimmicks for the points races, but here? Bring ‘em.
While the pit stops during qualifying are a great addition, there needs to be a green-flag stop during the race. Then, invert a certain number of cars for the final restart, make the drivers race to the portapotty during the segment break, eliminate the 12th-place car in every segment. Do something to make the race different and fun. There are 36 points-paying events to be serious, after all….
The other rule that needs to change is that only winning drivers get in, meaning if they change teams in the offseason, too bad for the team that got them there if the new driver didn’t win last year. The race used to include both the driver’s current team and the one that got him there. Under that rule, the No. 20 team, which won at Phoenix last fall, would be eligible this year, along with former driver Matt Kenseth, who is eligible and will race.
It’s not the team’s fault Erik Jones hasn’t won a race yet. That needs to come back. The teams are as much a part of the All-Star designation as the drivers.
4. The pit crews
Adding a pit stop to qualifying has made that part of the weekend more about the teams, and it’s certainly entertaining to watch. However, it’s still about the driver, and you won’t hear those crews’ names mentioned on the broadcast. The old Pit Crew Challenge was a lot of fun; teams were in the spotlight, and half the time, the driver wasn’t in the car.
Nothing against the drivers; they’re great, and they are who the fans pull for. But the more the sport is humanized, the better off it is.
This area is another one that could perhaps be up to the crews. If they’d rather skip the challenge for a night off, that’s understandable, but if they want to resurrect it, do so. Perhaps don’t tie the challenge into pit stall selection, either. Instead, keep the current qualifying format, but give the winning team a big fat check and let them have at it.
5. The last-chance race
Aside from the fan vote, which rightfully gives fans a say in this event, three drivers will race their way into the big show this year in a three-stage Open race with the winner of each segment making the big show. Is that too many?
Well, yeah. It is. Letting one driver race his way in? Absolutely! It gives fans a chance to see their driver race on All-Star weekend even if they’re not in the big event. That’s a good thing; it entices more fans to come if they know they’ll see their guy. But three? That’s just too many. If they didn’t win a race, it’s unlikely they’ll be competitive in the All-Star Race. It’s possible, of course; just not terribly likely. Take this one back to one 25-lap race and the winner transfers. Easy and makes sense.