Everything thing is bigger in Texas, and the All-Star Race is no exception. For the 2021 edition of the race, drivers will need to duel on the track with several random draws that could affect the outcome of the race. Georgia’s boy Chase Elliott will look to go back-to-back in the All-Star Race with different conditions than his Bristol win, as the format has changed drastically.
A total of 17 drivers are already locked into the All-Star Race by winning a race in the past year, wining a previous All-Star Race or holding past Cup Series champion status. There are chances for a driver not locked in to make the field via the All-Star Open, which will have three stages of 20, 20 and 10 laps with each stage winner advancing to the main event. If your favorite driver did not win one of those stages, your driver could claim the fan vote and advance on. After the Open, the field for the All-Star Race will be brought to a total of 21 drivers competing to win. Kyle Larson will start on the pole.
Unlike previous years, only green flag laps count during all stages. The last time that no caution laps were counted in all of the stages was 20 years ago for the 2001 All-Star Race, which saw Jeff Gordon win the race.
During last year’s All-Star race, NASCAR experimented with the underglow lights on the rear of the cars, numbers being pushed back to the rear of the door and the choose rule on the restart. Only one of the three, the chose rule, returns for 2021. The All-Star Race this year will not be a science experiment for NASCAR, even with Joe Gibbs Racing (jokingly) proposing bigger numbers on the side of the car for the race. The number of stages has doubled since last year’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which should bunch up the field more.
The All-Stars of NASCAR will start with a 15-lap sprint for stage one. After the 15 laps are complete, NASCAR has implemented a twist to the race which has not been seen for a long time: inversions of the field, last seen during Nextel’s sponsorship run between 2004-2006. By random draw, NASCAR will invert the field from as high as eighth position and as low as 12th position. The winner of stage one could start anywhere between eighth through 12th.
After the field is inverted, stage two will consist of 15 laps. Unlike stage one, the winner of stage two will have to come from much deeper in the field. After stage two, the whole field will be inverted. The last place lead lap car will become the leader on the restart for stage three.
After the field is shaken up like Texas tea, the drivers will run 15 more laps. The field will be inverted again by a random draw from the eighth through 12th positions. Track position will be an important factor for the inversions. Drivers could dominate the other stages and end up mired back in the field later in the race.
Stage four of the All-Star Race will be the calmest round of the night. After stage four, there will be no inversions to change up the field. Stage four finishing position is just as important as the other stages, though. Finishing positions of each stage will help to determine the starting lineup of stage five.
The longest stage of the race will be set up by the average finishing position of the previous four stages. If two drivers tie, the tie is broken by All-Star wins, then career wins, then the 2021 points standings. Another special element to the stage is a mandatory four tire pit stop. With pit crews getting faster every year, NASCAR will award the fastest pit crew of the night during stage five with a $100,000 award. After stage five, the pay window is only one more stage away for the drivers.
After the accumulation of the previous five stages, 10 laps will decide who will win the All-Star Race. The lineup for stage five will be determined by the previous stage results, not by an inversion like the other previous stages. After a 10-lap dash to the finish, a driver will be $1 million richer in the Lone Star State.