Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star race proved to be a huge disappointment. Every year there is a huge buildup for the event and every year the racing leaves a lot to be desired. It is apparent that several things need to change to make the All-Star race a unique event, like it was for so many years until recently.
It is long past time to move the event from Charlotte Motor Speedway. I am as much of a traditionalist as anyone but I think it is rather obvious that CMS does not create the kind of racing fans expect when it comes to the All-Star race. 1.5-mile speedways do not produce close, side-by-side lap-after-lap racing which is what everyone expects for an event that features the best of the best in NASCAR. Unless your favorite driver is leading the race, nobody wants to see a driver win by 2 seconds in the All-Star race.
My first suggestion is to move the All-Star event and rotate the race each year between the three short tracks currently on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond. The great thing about all three tracks is that they are all relatively close to the Charlotte area where most of the Sprint Cup teams are based.
Of the three tracks, Martinsville is the only one without lights for night racing. However, temporary lighting could be used for the track which would likely make for an exciting event given how hard the drivers are on brakes at the half-mile track. It would also be history making since Martinsville has never held a Sprint Cup race at night.
My second suggestion is to change the date of the All-Star race. Move the race to the middle of the season before the second race at Daytona. This could be easily accommodated in the schedule and would it would be a welcome addition to have a short track race in the middle of the year when there isn’t one.
Suggestion three would be to change the format for the race. The system that was used this year created a lot of confusion for fans, broadcasters, teams and drivers. I am a big fan of the full-field inversions which used to be a staple in the All-Star race. My format would be three segments of 75 laps, 50 laps and 25 laps with a full field inversion after the first segment. To prevent sandbagging, you average the finish of the first two segments and use that to determine the starting order for the final segment.
I would also like to see a limit put on the number of drivers starting the feature event. In my view, there should be no more than 20 starters period. The All-Star race is supposed to have the very best drivers. A field of more than 20 drivers waters down the whole notion of the race being prestigious just to start in.
I would tweak the entry format for the race with past Cup champions getting in first then past winners of the All-Star race in the past 10 years. From that, the remaining positions up to position 19 are given to drivers who have won a race the same year or the year previous. If the number of drivers that qualify for the All-Star race goes over 19 then positions in the race go to the most recent winners. The 20th and final position would go to the winner of the Open race.
My final suggestion would be to eliminate single car qualifying altogether for both the Open and All-Star races. Have a random draw for starting positions then have qualifying heat races for both events. Do it in a similar fashion to the Daytona 500 where the inside row is determined by the first heat and the outside row is determined by the second heat.
I know it is highly unlikely that NASCAR would adopt any of these changes. I could only dream. The disappointment from this year’s race will very likely change the rules for next year. Hopefully NASCAR makes an overall improvement to the race. It’s sorely needed.