By Patrick Reynolds
I liked the racing in the 2016 NASCAR All Star race.
NASCAR has done a lot of trial and error with aerodynamic body packages and has come up with a set of rules that provides very good racing on downforce tracks, something that has been lacking on a consistent basis for years. Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted an All Star weekend with good on-track action in the Sprint Cup Series.
I disliked the format in the 2016 NASCAR All Star race.
To be straightforward, I have not loved every All Star race format. Last Saturday’s running took the cake for silliness.
The Winston, as the All Star race was first known, was initially staged in 1985. Determining the field was simple- race winners from the previous season. The format was fairly easy as well- 70 laps- which was just over a fuel window, so pit crews would come into play. The only twist was the pit stop had to occur during a predetermined lap window.
When the race was first announced in 1984 I thought the event was a great idea, except for determining when the pit stop must take place. That was the only factor I disliked.
I felt running the race distance further than any car could go on fuel and necessitating a pit stop was wonderful. At that point, I wished NASCAR would have left the strategy into the pit crew’s hands.
I am a fan of crew chiefs out thinking each other instead of being told what to do.
Should a team pit early and be done with pit road? How about running most of the way and pitting late? Split the difference at halfway? Two tires? Four tires? No tires and fuel only? What if there is a caution? What if the race goes green-to-checkered?
I like that.
However, that never materialized.
A similar format followed The Winston to Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986. The segments began when the race returned to Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1987.
Three runs of 75, 50, and 10 laps settled the score. The last 10 laps have been turned into NASCAR lore with the Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, and Geoff Bodine slugfest. I also remember the first two segments being very lackluster, but that recollection has faded like many others.
I continue to be a fan of pure racing, where the only mandatory flags to be waved are the green, the white, and the checkered. Whatever happens in between should simply play out.
Auto racing series that operate with segments, breaks, stoppages, and resets have little interest to me.
NASCAR’s All Star race has twisted through various formats to the point where finding two identical is pretty difficult.
This year’s convoluted All Star race format begged for something to go problematic.
NASCAR had three segments. Requiring a green flag pit stop, with a penalty if the stop was made under caution, a return trip down pit road under caution to check lug nuts, no wave around rule in effect, a 13-lap final segment, a redraw to determine who must pit and who cannot pit, and some other rules make for this run-on sentence you just read.
Crew chiefs, drivers, and TV broadcasters all admitted to not understanding the format completely.
The point is, with so many rules in place- I stopped caring about the race.
How’s that “growing the sport” working for you?
NASCAR’s All Star race became a punch line last Saturday night. The sanctioning body’s corporate mouthpieces can talk all that they want about making the sport more exciting for the fans and the race’s unforeseen circumstances.
NASCAR, with all due respect, you are full of it.
I have been watching racing for 40 years and many of my friends have been watching it for a heck of a lot longer. We all saw a mess coming and never once asked for more gimmicks. I have begged for less gimmicks and allowing a sport to happen naturally. What was put in place last Saturday appeared to come from an organization that opened for business 60 minutes ago, not 60 years ago.
You can keep your All Star race. For years it has crept further away from what I originally hoped for- an exclusive short distance contest that allowed the teams to simply race. The small gimmicks have overgrown to be circus acts.
Last Saturday’s mess was predicted ahead of time by people that have paid attention to the sport. The ones drawing a paycheck from the sanctioning body will tell you about their own fine effort and creative ideas.
I long for the 1985 NASCAR race in which I disliked some details. The Winston was not perfect; however it did not contain the three rings and clowns I saw in 2016.
Patrick Reynolds is a former professional NASCAR mechanic who hosts Speedway Report Mondays 7:30 pm ET/ 4:30 pm PT on www.racersreunionradio.com. Follow on Twitter @SpeedwayPat and @SpeedwayReport