Winning All-Star Race Format Right Under NASCAR’s Noses

May 21, 2016; Concord, NC, USA; Qualifying for the All Star Race are Sprint Cup Series driver Chase Elliott (24), Trevor Bayne (6), Kyle Larson (42), Greg Biffle (16) and Danica Patrick (10 during the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
May 21, 2016; Concord, NC, USA; Qualifying for the All Star Race are Sprint Cup Series driver Chase Elliott (24), Trevor Bayne (6), Kyle Larson (42), Greg Biffle (16) and Danica Patrick (10 during the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

After Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race you can’t help but to feel a little sorry for Michael Waltrip, Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon. As tough as the race was to watch, imagine how difficult it was to call.

Not only were they  forced to witness the most uninteresting, uneventful and just plain boring opening 50 laps of the Sprint All-star race, they also had to pretend that what they were watching was the most entertaining thing they ever watched. Unfortunately for Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip and Mike Joy that proved to be impossible with the lack of action and memorable moments in the opening laps.

They also felt that they had to cover every angle of the Stewart, Kenseth, Biffle pileup in an attempt to get viewers excited for the rest of the race. While the wreck was probably the most interesting thing to take place in the first half of the race, especially with the confusing scoring order issues that were taking place, it still didn’t make great television for NASCAR fans.

Sadly, the truth was the exact opposite and NASCAR now must go back to the drawing board with one of their biggest races of the year. Sure, NASCAR was able to fix the Sprint Showdown, a race that eventually added Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliot and Danica Patrick to the all-star main event, but the same could definitely not be said for the All-Star Race itself.

Making the situation even worse was the confusion caused by Matt Kenseth being penalized for waiting until the last minute to take his pit stop in segment one, ultimately resulting in him and several other drivers going a lap down without the possibility of a wave around. This of course confused fans and drivers alike, especially after NASCAR admitted they didn’t consider this possibility.

“We’ve had a format that we’ve never done before, and we worked diligently trying to come up with every scenario and an answer for anything that might crop up,” NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition, Scott Miller later told the press when asked about the problems with the new format, “This is not something that we do every day with this type of race.”

With that being said, one has to wonder if the new format wasn’t just a huge screw you to the fans, the drivers! I mean, NASCAR would honestly have to be either completely out of their minds or nefariously evil to create a better format for The Showdown race, and then put on such an embarrassing and unfortunately very uninteresting All-Star race for the fans.

While NASCAR did a great job of creating excitement and intense action in the final 13 lap segment of the race, which was in large part due to the inversion of the field and the new mandatory pit stop rule, The Showdown still put on a better overall racing product then the Sprint All Star race did. If nothing else, it almost has to be insulting that NASCAR was so close to a format that could have changed it all.

Yes, the final segment did prove to be everything NASCAR promised its fans and more, especially with how Joey Logano came up clutch over Kyle Larson for The first Sprint Cup All-Star victory of his career, but it just wasn’t enough to save the entire race as a whole. In fact, it probably only made the drawbacks of the new format more evident to fans and drivers.

What was it though? What was it that made The Showdown so much better than the main event All Star race later that night? Although it is impossible to speak for the majority of NASCAR fans, especially since many of them never agree with a thing I’ve ever written, I believe the extremely short segments and high stakes in each segment played a large role in making the race a complete spectacle.

Not only should that be self-evident by the action packed closing laps to the first and third segment of The Showdown, it should also be evident by the overall racing product in the three segment heat race before the big event. As for the final segment of the race, it might have created a sense of urgency in the final laps of the race, but NASCAR fans had to go throughout two 50 lap segments to get there.

Think about it! It was the incentive of being in The All-Star race that caused Trevor Bayne to go three wide and force the issue for the surprise win in the first segment and it was the added incentive that had Chase Elliot and Kyle Larson to bang doors to the finish line in the third segment. Finally, it was the incentive that caused Blaney to jump the restart and got penalized.

With that being said, NASCAR needs to make the first two segments of the race shorter, reward each driver for winning a segment, and then hold a random draw to see how the four segment winners line up in a 13 laps showdown to determine the winner. NASCAR can then add excitement by mandating that ever driver in the field must make a pit stop and put on four fresh tires for the final segment.

This will of course add a little strategy to the race and also create a lot of interesting possibilities of how the final laps could play out. Not only could the first four take each other out in a desperate attempt to win the prize money, thus giving drivers from the back of the field the chance to win the race, it also allows for four of the best drivers from that evenings race battle it out for a chance at the prize.

In the end, it’s not too likely that NASCAR will keep this format for very long and that will probably be the best news to come out of the entire All Star weekend. Unfortunately for fans, NASCAR’s next idea for The All-star race could be even worse than the one they witnessed tonight.