Wednesday, on NASCAR Race Hub, NASCAR announced the format for this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race.
Over its 35-year history, it’s had 15 different formats. Three of them have come in the last five years.
Does the All-Star Race excite anyone, anymore?
What’s even the most notable thing that’s happened in this event in the last 10 years? Probably 2012, when NASCAR incentivized the segment winners to sandbag, until the final pit stop (to their credit, however, they changed that the following year to best segment average finish).
This isn’t your father’s All-Star Race, where Rusty Wallace turned Darrell Waltrip to win the event or Davey Allison got turned, as he crossed the finish line. This is an event that’s become a victim of the aerodynamic-centrism that’s made races at 1.5-mile tracks so maligned. This is a race where the guy who exits pit road first on the final stop wins it nine times out of 10.
It’s yet another race in a season that’s already too long.
And unlike other All-Star Games in the stick and ball world, you’re not seeing players that, if you follow Major League Baseball, you’d only see three or four times a year (or 20 times, if you’re a fan of a division rival) in a 162-game season. You’re seeing the drivers that already race 36 times a year.
So what made it stand out? It was the gimmicks.
It made sense until 2004, when this was a race with gimmicks, during a season when the championship was decided in a season-long points format. But with all the gimmicks that permeate NASCAR now (and yes, stage racing and playoff points are gimmicks), what makes this race any different from a race during the season?
Is it the million-dollar prize? Aside from it not being the only race with a purse that large, what about that is supposed to appeal to the blue-collar worker that earns $31,900 a year? For context, the median household income in the United States (and this number can vary by source) in 2017 was $61,372.
It’s time to accept that the All-Star Race has run its course. The event, every year, is so over-hyped and enrages fans when it disappoints.
What if instead of the All-Star Race, we use it as an actual off weekend for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. And while it’s off, let’s run the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) and the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (NGOTS) at a short track, like — say — Hickory Motor Speedway or Myrtle Beach Speedway.
Then the next weekend (if we must run the NGOTS and NXS at Charlotte), run the NGOTS race on Thursday, NXS on Saturday and the Coca-Cola World 600 on Sunday evening.
Right now, as it is, the All-Star Race is just another race weekend taking up space in an already crowded schedule.
That’s my view, for what it’s worth.