May 24, 2012
By Nicholas Schwartz
It seems the new changes to the All-Star Race format were a bust.
Winners of each race segment smartly realized that there was absolutely no incentive to race up near to front -- so beginning with segment one winner Jimmie Johnson, each drifted to the back, ensured that they would be ushered back up to the front of the pack with just 10 laps left to go.
I really tip my hat to NASCAR for trying something new with the All-Star Race, and for a history of being willing to alter the Saturday-night show over the years. NASCAR thought that the five-segment format, complete with a field reshuffle prior to the last segment, would make for an exciting race. Instead, Jimmie Johnson left the field in his dust after a single lap and fans were left with an extremely anti-climactic finish.
NASCAR struck out this year, but you can’t blame them for trying.
The real problem, however, has nothing to do with the format. I think that, at the right venue, the idea of shuffling the winners of a segment back up toward the front could make for an exciting race. Plus, it’s in the spirit of NASCAR to give the winners of the first three-quarters of an event the best shot at winning when it counts (see: Chase for the Sprint Cup).
The real problem is with the venue.
Charlotte Motor Speedway -- as wonderful a track it is, with great options for fans, good seats all around the track, and the world’s largest high-definition television screen -- does not portend a great race anymore.
Blame it on the 2006 repave, or blame it on the current aerodynamic package, but races at Charlotte just aren’t that exciting. The field quickly gets strung out around the track, it’s extremely difficult for cars to pass one another (don’t even think of running two-or-three-wide for any extended distance) and races typically turn into a grand parade of follow the leader, albeit at 180 miles per hour.
When it comes to pure racing, Charlotte is still one of the best tracks on the circuit. Fans and pundits have been discussing what type of racing is best -- be it rough-and-tumble short-track racing, caution filled superspeedway racing, or races filled with long green-flag runs where the best car usually wins -- but the fact is that Charlotte usually caters to the latter type.
But is that the type of racing best suited for an “All-Star Race”?
I realize the name refers to the fact that each year, the sport’s all-stars participate in the event, but shouldn’t it also mean that the racing itself is of an all-star caliber?
Charlotte is the absolute heart of NASCAR country. Nearly every race team’s shop is located in the greater Charlotte/Concord area, and Charlotte Motor Speedway is the de-facto home track of NASCAR.
It may border upon sacrilege to suggest that the All-Star Race should leave the track at which it was born is calls home, but I can’t see fans wanting to pay hard-earned money for a show like we saw Saturday evening, when the odds of any driver outside the top two on the final restart winning are slim and none.
There are plenty of other tracks in the Southeast region that would still allow teams a relative break from a hectic travel schedule that could likely provide a closer contest.
If you would like to learn more about Nicholas, please check out his web site at Sports By Schwartz. Nicholas is a Managing editor and sportswriter for The Duke Chronicle at Duke University.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.