The format for the NASCAR All-Star race seems to be changing every year since the first race was run in 1985. It started out as a very simple format but as the years went on in got to be somewhat complicated.
In 1985 it was a very simple format. The twelve race winners from the previous year competed in a one segment 70 lap race with one pit stop being required. The race was also held on the day before the Coca-Cola 600. Also whoever led on lap 20 received a $10,000 bonus and that was Terry Labonte. In 1986 the All-Star race was moved to Atlanta and was held on Mothers Day. It was 83 laps and because the eligibility was only winners of the previous year, there were only nine drivers. A tenth car was added (Geoff Bodine) who finished highest in points in 1985 without a win. The “Atlanta invitational” which was a 100 lap race held to all other drivers was held on the same day.
The 1987 season we started to see sort of what we see now. The race was moved back to Charlotte and there were three segments. A 75 lap with a mandatory green flag pit stop, a 50 lap then a 10 green lap finish. The field consisted of the last 19 drivers to win a race regardless of the season. Also a 100 lap “Winston Open” where only the winner would advance to the Winston.
1990 the format changed once again and this time there were only two segments. They were 50 laps and 20 laps. In 1991 it was changed again. Winners of the 1990 and 1991 season were allowed to race and to get a 20 car field the top finishers (however many were needed to fill out 20 cars) were allowed to race in The Winston.
In 1992 the race was broadcast live on Saturday night and once again the rules changed. The three segments were 30 laps. 30 and a final 10 green flag laps. The Winston Open was shortened to 30 laps. The field was also inverted after the first segment.
Starting in 1998, only green flag laps counted for all three segments. The field inversion was changed to a random draw between 3 and 12 cars. Also the qualifying format for the Winston Open was changed. From 1998-200 the “No Bull 25″ lap Sprint races determined the lineup. Those starting positions were set by their practice speeds. From 2000-2002 immediately after the Winston Open a 5 lap dash was raced for the last spot in the All-Star race.
2002 the format once again to confuse fans even more was changed again. This time three segments, 40, 30 laps and 20 green flag laps. Winners of the 2001 season, past Winston winners and past champions were automatically locked in. A four tire green flag pit stop was mandatory. This was also the first year of the eliminations. After the first segment only the top 20 advance, then 10 cars with the field inverted and the last 20 laps.
When Nextel took over the title sponsor for NASCAR the name changed to the All-Star race. The only difference was the elimination was eliminated and 1998-2001 inversion rules came back. Also because Jeff Burton beat the system by pitting right before the start finish line of the last lap the green flag pit stop had to be between lap 13 and 16.
2007 saw more changes to the race. The winner of the new “pit crew challenge” got first pit selection. Three drivers from the two 20 lap segment open race got in. The first two finishers and the highest fan vote who was still on the lead lap got in. The All-Star race was shortened to four-20 lap segments. There was no inversion of the field and only green flag laps counted in the last segment. There was also a mandatory pit stop after the third segment. In 2008 the race was changed to four-25 lap segments and also the last pit stop was mandatory for fuel and tires.
From 2009-2011 the three segments were still 100 laps but were 50,20,20 and 10 green flag laps for the last segment. The first segment had a mandatory four tire pit stop on lap 25. After the third segment another mandatory pit stop was made.
Finally in 2012 the rules were changed again there were 5 segments now with four 20 laps a final 10 lap sprint. NASCAR has really chnaged the formatting and has messed with fans heads since the start of the all-star race.