Does NASCAR All-Star Race even need a special format?
I had prepared to move on from the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race debacle today before hearing a specific caller on “The Morning Drive” on NASCAR SiriusXM Radio this morning. I don’t remember his name or where he was from, but I think he was onto something when it comes to the All-Star Race.
Whether Saturday’s mess was the brainchild of a single driver or came out of the input from several drivers seems to depend on who you believe. According to NASCAR, it was the result of input from multiple drivers. But Denny Hamlin directly tweeted broadcaster Dave Moody that it was the idea of a single driver and the others hated it. For what it’s worth, other drivers retweeted Hamlin’s tweet, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart. It’s assumed the “one” is Brad Keselowski. After all, Earnhardt gave Keselowski credit/blame for the format via Twitter shortly after said format became public.
Originator(s) of the idea aside, the aforementioned caller has me wondering, doe we even need a special format for the All-Star Race?
I think Saturday night’s format had its strong points. I think I even mentioned in this blog space Sunday morning that I thought the issues were more from the execution, not so much the format. I still feel that way, if we need to have some kind of special format for the All-Star Race. But that caller this morning has me wondering if we even need a special format.
I realize some readers hate hearing comparisons between racing and stick-and-ball sports, but stick with me on this one. Those stick-and-ball sports don’t utilize special convoluted formats for their all-star events. The thing that makes them all-star events is the presence of all the sports’ top stars.
Therein lies a difference. With stick-and-ball sports, all teams aren’t competing in a given event. Instead, games feature two teams. In racing, though, all teams compete at the same time and at the same venue so, generally speaking, all races include all the all-stars.
Still, maybe those stick-and-ball guys have the idea. How about an All-Star Race minus the convoluted special format? Maybe we just need a race featuring the top-20 drivers over a shorter distance, like the top-20 drivers racing 100 laps at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, No mandatory pit stops, no eliminations, no inversions, no tricks, only treats.
While it seems hardly anyone, other than maybe the Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, was happy with the overall product on Saturday night, the consensus seems to be that the racing, otherwise, was good. That, though, I think, was more a product of the aero package, not so much the format.
So, how about a shorter race with Saturday night’s aero package? Again, I’m presenting the idea of, simply, a 100-lap race at Charlotte, featuring the top-20 or so drivers. Maybe the problem with the Sprint All-Star Race is, simply, a problem of over-thinking. I’m kind of thinking that caller this morning was right.
As for the idea of moving the All-Star Race, this is where I think racing and other stick-and-ball sports should differ when it comes to their all-star events. In those other sports, the all-stars are coming from teams across the country. In NASCAR, almost all teams are in the Charlotte area. Besides, having the event in Charlotte gives fans the opporunity to make a week of it — visiting race shops, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, etc.
Maybe we’re thinking too hard about this All-Star Race thing. Maybe it’s really just as simple as applying the regular rules to a shorter race with a field of only all-stars. I’m all for the extra pomp and circumstance; we are, after all, talking about the All-Star Race, here. But when it comes to the race format, sometimes simpler is better.