(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2020 All-Star Race

Who…should you be talking about after the race?

Chase Elliott said after the race he and his team had to hit the reset button after a couple of difficult weeks. If that’s the case, they need to hit it before every race, because it worked. Elliott did everything right, his team did everything right and track position was king of the night. Elliott becomes half of the second father-son duo to win the All-Star race.

While finishing 14th in a field of 20 isn’t exactly a red-letter day, it’s not a bad one either for Justin Haley, the underdog in the race who got there via his surprise win at Daytona last summer. Haley held his own in an underfunded car, and his finish is fairly respectable. He beat three Cup champions with nine titles among them. That’s not bad for a driver who has a total of four Cup starts to his name.

What…if anything, should carry forward from this race?

Please, racing gods, not the undercarriage lights…

But was anything here good enough to do it again?

First of all, let’s keep the All-Star race on short tracks, despite this year’s lackluster showing. It could bounce between Bristol and Martinsville, maybe Richmond. It should stay close to Charlotte simply because it’s the one race the teams’ families really get to enjoy (honestly, the teams should choose where it’s held. If they want Charlotte every year, so be it, because this race is all about them). But this race had potential to shine in a way an intermediate just can’t.

Speaking if that vibe, I’d be for using the choose rule in points races at Bristol, Martinsville and maybe Richmond. At Martinsville in particular, it would end the silly (and potentially dangerous) games teams play on pit road to get an inside starting spot. It doesn’t alter the quality of racing in any negative way. Sure, someone might gain a few spots here and there, but if he can hang onto them after the green, he earned them.

Where…were the other key players at the end?

Open stage winners Aric Almirola and William Byron ran about where you’d expect – mid-pack against the top cars in the Cup Series. Both have had their moments this season when it looked like a win might be in the cards, but it hasn’t come yet. Only a handful of drivers have ever gone on to win the All-Star Race after transferring in from the Open, and that held true this year as Almirola finished ninth and Byron 12th.

Open winner Matt DiBenedetto finally closed the deal at Bristol, taking the checkers and making the show after holding off Clint Bowyer to win. He smacked the wall early on in the main event, causing enough damage to affect the No. 21 to keep him from being a factor. A two-tire change after stage two gave him track position, but he fell back quickly without the handling to make it stick. He finished his first All-Star event in 13th.

Like the others who transferred in last-minute, fan vote winner Clint Bowyer ran about where he has for much of the season, finishing 15th.

Polesitter Martin Truex Jr. is one of the drivers who has struggled a bit in 2020 without weekly practice or qualifying. He’s also had his struggles at Bristol in the past, so his 10th-place finish is, as is a theme this week, par for the course.

Four-time All-Star race winner Jimmie Johnson has won this race more than any other driver since its inception in 1985. But this year the No. 48 was off the mark and never improved. Johnson finished his last turn in this event in 17th.

When…was the moment of truth?

The real moment of clarity came after the checkered flag with the realization that the Open was the more entertaining race. That race featured a few bump and runs, one dump and run, and drivers generally racing like it meant something.

The All-Stars couldn’t match the underdogs in enthusiasm or excitement when all was said and done. I’m far from an advocate for wanton crashes and intentional wrecks, but with a million dollars on the line, it seemed like nobody was willing to make any kind of gamble or bold move to win it. This should have been a marquee event: short track on a Wednesday night under the lights for a million-dollar prize and a year’s worth of bragging rights, all in front of fans for the first time in months. But it wasn’t much better than the previous All-Star events at Charlotte. The short-track vibe was, as I said earlier, evident, especially before the race, but the event fell far short of expectations.

Why…is the weird number placement ultimately okay?

Yes, it’s ugly. Like, really ugly. But the shoved-back car number does allow sponsors more visibility, and sponsors are critical to the sport’s viability. At the end of the day, the company on the side of the car pays the bills to keep that car on the track.  And if the sponsor thinks having a bigger logo on the side of the car will help them sell more widgets, leading them to buy more races, it’s good for the team.

Having more teams who can be competitive is good for NASCAR. It makes races more exciting, which is good for fans. So, while it may not be pretty – okay, it’s really, really not pretty – it may very well be a thing permanently in the not-too-distant future. And if brings teams money, it’s not the end of the world.

How… come NASCAR changed the rules for this race?

The All-Star Race has seen some changes through the years, and some have been good, some questionable and some silly. But one made in recent years needs to go. It used to be that the race was about teams as well as drivers, and if a team qualified, that team raced, even if there was a driver change. Now, the driver still makes the race in his new ride, but his old team gets the shaft.

News flash: that driver absolutely didn’t win the race on his own.

The team prepared the car, pitted the car, made the car better at every stop.  They deserve the recognition if they had a win.

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Amy is a 15-year veteran writer and a five-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. Amy pens The Big 6 (Mondays) Frontstretch 5 (Wednesdays) and Holding A Pretty Wheel (monthly - Fridays). A New Hampshire native living in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits extend everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports.

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20 comments

  1. Avatar

    ZZZZ. I NEVER THOUGHT NASCAR COULD MAKE A BRISTOL RACE BORING. PIT STOPS AND RESTARTS WERE THE ONLY ACTION TONIGHT. THE ABSURDLY SHORT STAGES, ESPECIALLY IN THE OPEN DIDN’T GIVE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR ANY RACE STRATEGY. 15 LAPS IN THE FINAL STAGE TAKES 3:45, NOT HARDLY ANY LENGTH OF TIME FOR SOMEONE TO MAKE A CHARGE !!

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    I think the choose cone is a good idea for non points races. It should not have a place in regular point paying races. It negates pit stops and the sport of competition. Just another gimmick.

    If they kept the lead lap cars starting on the outside lane like the rule use to be then there wouldn’t be an issue. They should restart single file with the lapped cars on the inside. It’s almost next to impossible to get any laps back if you’re 2+laps behind because of the lucky dog.

    Or just have restarts single file so that there’s no difference in lanes and the drivers can race from wherever they want.

    Bristol is an SMI track hence why they had the all star race there to complete the TV requirement per the contract. However, next year they should bring the all star race to a bull ring. Like Bowman Gray Stadium. It would be a sellout race and would require drivers racing hard and competitive.

    My girlfriend who is a newer fan of Motorsports in general was questioning the amount of cars and quality of cars. Stating it’s the same top runners every week in the all star race. There’s nothing different.

    Which leads me to another idea about how we should cap the field to 16 drivers only. Every single driver needs to win or race their way into the all star field. It should be earned. Not granted by previously winner a race 4 years ago.

    Just my two cents. Discuss if you’d like!!

  3. Avatar

    I noticed very few masks being worn in the stands last night. It will be interesting in a couple weeks to see if the positive virus test spike up again.

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      sb – i though the same thing. read where nascar has gone to teams to remind them about masks and social distancing. just think how many potential cases in texas after this weekend.

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        sb, Janice,
        Yes I noticed very few masks in the stands also. And I heard on the news this morning that masks were required. Up here in Massachusetts, we are very much past the surge, but masks are still required in public buildings and stores. Restaurants just opened up for inside dining a week ago, at a limited percentage of capacity. To those in the hot spots – be careful and stay as safe as you can.

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          Johnny Cuda – it’s climbing here in the south. i always have my mask when going into store, elevators at work. it won’t go away til vaccine. now schools here in south are trying to figure out what to do. one day they’re in school a week later it’s all virtual. glad i don’t have to worry about.

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    i’d love to know if bowyer really got the most fan votes or if cause bubba wrecked in open and couldn’t race did nascar just go with #2? but then bubba got his participation trophy by winning the byrnsie award.

    why were there so many stages in the race? not like they earned points.

    so kenseth was in it cause larson won it last year in the 42?

    dw was happy cause he was relevant for the night. in his mind he’s probably the savior of the fox broadcast for the season.

    i fell asleep and woke up in time to see elliott being interviewed on the front stretch.

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      Oh you can bet Bubba would have won the fan vote had he not crashed! DW was certainly pumped to be back on TV again. I have certainly not missed the boogity crap.

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      Do you think it would have been too obvious if Bubba won the “fan” vote and they let him use his backup car?

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        DoninAjax – that’s what i expected them to do. was shocked it didn’t happen.

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          Yeah, that crossed my mind too. If they had done that, I think people would have changed the channel. I would have.

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      Matt Kenseth was a previous winner way back in 2004.

      I’m also curious if Bubba won the fan vote.

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      After I saw what happened to Bubba last night and not making the race I wondered how long it would take the cynics to come out of the woodwork here on Frontstretch. Didn’t take long and didn’t disappoint.

  5. Avatar

    I forgot the event was on and tuned in just before the main event. When they went through the lineup I had to go back and slow it down because whatshisname wasn’t in it. I thought I was seeing things and then thought he must have crashed out before he had a chance to get the “fan” vote. I thought a lot of suits were pissed off and I wouldn’t want to be the guy who he wrecked with.

  6. Avatar

    They should go back to the format used in the late 80’s: 75/50/10, mandatory green-flag pit-stop in the first stage. It gets a good tire run in, allows for pit strategy, gets the pit crew involved in the race in a more meaningful capacity and still sets up the finale for a 10-lap shootout. As far as masks go, y’all are just ate up. You’re a lot safer outside than you are inside…

  7. Avatar

    If a guy takes his wife and two kids to Bristol do they have to stay six feet apart and wear masks or can they sit together?

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    I didn’t have a problem with the new location of the numbers on the cars. It was different, but I could live with it if it became the norm. There are worse things to complain about with Nascar. The underglow lights did nothing for me, though.

    You can bet Bubba would have gotten the fan vote. All those new Nascar fans I’m sure voted him in. wink wink

    Was going to mention the 42 as an example of a team getting into the race and not just the driver.

    Bubba sure was upset after he got wrecked (Would have been nice to see it live instead of whatever that was that Fox showed us). Maybe he should think twice before bumping someone else out of the way. Did he not expect any type of pay back for that?

    From DW, to the Wallace wreck, to hyping the commitment cone to no end and then not showing it live, and the obvious attempt to do avoid showing the Trump sponsored Lajoie car (edict from Nascar perhaps?), FOX had a terrible broadcast last night.