Tag:All-Star Race
Posted on: May 24, 2011 12:51 pm
Edited on: May 24, 2011 12:57 pm

Idle Thoughts: all-star race needs changes

By Pete Pistone

(Side-by-side racing like this battle between Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson was rare Saturday night)

If Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race left you flat you weren’t alone.

Like many race fans, I too was let down by the 27th edition of NASCAR’s annual May race.

The weeks of build-up and hype that raised the level of expectations to perhaps unreasonable levels culminated with what some felt was the worst all-star race since its inception in 1985.

But don’t blame Carl Edwards for stinking up the show.

The stale nature of the all-star event has nothing to do with Edwards’ dominating performance.

Not every race is going to end with a three-wide finish to the checkered flag. It’s the nature of any sports event that sometimes circumstances lead to blowouts or less than thrilling endings.

Sure it didn’t help that for weeks on end fans heard about the gloves coming off and how the non-points all-star race with a million bucks on the line was going to be an event for the ages.

Toss in the “Boys Have at It” nature of the season and the Kevin Harvick-Kyle Busch feud that had boiled over only a few days before and the ingredients seemed to be in place for a memorable night.

It didn’t turn out that way to say the least but there’s nothing NASCAR can do about one of those nights when one team and driver had it all going on.

But what the can do, along with Sprint, SPEED and Charlotte Motor Speedway officials, is find a way to breath new life into a race that has quite frankly gotten stale.

An easy fix is to return the event to what it was originally intended to be – an ALL-STAR race. That means an exclusive event open only to drivers who have accomplished and achieved more than others - specifically winners from the previous season.

That was the concept for what was known as The Winston when it debuted in 1985, and an idea that made the race special and unique.

But somehow as time went by the race became a bloated affair that has turned more run of the mill with each passing season.

In an effort to appeal to fans of all drivers the all-star race has become watered down because now practically everyone can participate.

Rules have been changed, tweaked and modified in recent years to open the qualifying criteria up and in the process have ruined any kind of exclusivity of making the race.

What’s left is some weird hybrid-monster that has been trumped up so much with segments, pit stops and other tricks it barely has any resemblance to a real NASCAR race.

Other sports don’t change the very basis of their rules when all-star time rolls around and neither should NASCAR. Imagine baseball allowing four outs per inning and extending at bats to four strikes. Or the NBA instituting a four-point shot and 40-second shot clock for its all-star game.

Such radical changes would hurt the integrity of those games as the all-star race does to NASCAR.

And not every player gets invited to participate in all-star games. They earn their way through performance as well as in some cases fan vote.

NASCAR needs to take that route immediately to restore an aura of distinctiveness to the race.

The race should only be open to winners from the previous season, two drivers who race in through the preliminary event and one last entry via the fan vote.

That’s it. No former race winners, previous champions or guys whose last name ends in a vowel. It should be a privilege to compete in the event and not simply an open invitation to anyone who can field a car.

Had those rules been in effect this year we would have had 13 drivers in from last season’s win list, two from the Showdown and a fan vote candidate for a very exclusive field of 16.

And let’s eliminate the gimmicks. Run a 40-lap preliminary to determine the two transfer spots and then line-up the main event as a 70-lap affair, just as the original race was created.

Segments don’t do anything but slow down the process and have rarely produced any real racing as drivers save up for the mad ten lap dash to the checkered flag.

Compress the night into a meaningful race where pit stops and strategy also come into play and let drivers, crew chiefs and teams earn their way to the million dollar prize more in line with what they do on a weekly basis.

All of the pomp and festivities leading up to the racing is fine. Concerts, music, light shows, fireworks, driver introductions and other fan-oriented activities should always be a big part of the event.

But let’s not lose sight of what everyone is truly interested in and that’s the racing.

A return to the beginnings of the all-star race would provide the event a needed lift and make it much more relevant than the current product.

Oh and it is imperative to start things much earlier. Saturday night’s 9:50 pm ET start time was nothing short of ridiculous.

And while we’re at it, let’s move the race to a Wednesday night and lead into the Coca-Cola 600 weekend of racing. With the Hall of Fame ceremonies now shifted to January, there’s no reason to hold two weekends of racing in Charlotte every May.

A prime time all-star race would be a big hit on the television ratings front. And with all due respect to SPEED, the race should be on network television with FOX able to reach more than 20 million more potential households than the cable channel. If you're going to showcase your sport, shouldn't you do so to the largest possible audience?

The shift would also allow fans to plan a five or six day vacation to Charlotte leading into the holiday weekend and take in a veritable non-stop schedule of NASCAR racing. The all-star race, trucks, Cup qualifying, Nationwide race and Coca-Cola 600 line-up would rival only Daytona’s Speedweeks in offering a racing Nirvana.

In its current state maybe the better idea is to take the old girl out behind the barn and perform an “Old Yeller” ending.

That would pave the way to adding another real Sprint Cup race to the schedule, an idea I bet the folks at Iowa Speedway would be more than willing to discuss.

More NASCAR coverage
Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: May 20, 2011 6:00 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2011 6:24 pm

France says "Boys Have at It" has limits

By Pete Pistone

NASCAR CEO Brian France Speaks
(NASCAR CEO Brian France at Charlotte Motor Speedway)

NASCAR CEO Brain France met the media Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway to touch on a variety of subjects as the Sprint Cup Series heads into this weekend’s All-Star Race activities.

On the top of the list of issues France addressed was the ongoing “Boys Have at It” style of racing that has punctuated NASCAR since last season and the recent feud between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

“There are limits,” France said of the duo’s Darlington dust-up that boiled over to a pit road altercation after the race. “One of the limits is if you put anyone in danger like what happened with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch where it was after the race.

“We never said that there was no limits to that. You just can’t go around with a missile and a weapon out there.  If you’re having contact, that’s part of NASCAR. It’s tough for us, but that’s what we do. It’s tough for any sport to have certain areas of the game … that are subjective as to what is too much. We will figure that out. We’re going to remain, obviously a contact sport and we’re going to remain with the basic philosophy that we’re putting more of it in the driver’s hands and if they go over a line we think is there, we’ll deal with that.’’

Several drivers still seem to be confused by what the boundaries are regarding the policy but France said there’s no way that NASCAR can make the rule any clearer.

“We think not,” France said. “We think that there’s a 60-year history of how we officiate the events. Most of our top officials, certainly (NASCAR President) Mike Helton is in charge every weekend, have been at the helm for a decade or longer.

“This shouldn’t be a big surprise for anyone to try to read us and how we’re going to officiate the events. We’ve said late in the event if your car is faster than somebody else and there is some contact and somebody gets by, that’s NASCAR racing. We celebrate that.”

Both Harvick and Busch are on probation through the middle of June for their Darlington altercation. France explained just what that sometimes murky word means in regard to the drivers’ future behavior.

“What probation means is there’s a different set of eyes and expectations that are placed on a driver who has been placed on probation that they’re going to have a more limited flexibility in how we’re going to officiate them should they be in something similar … to the area they just violated,'' he explained.

France spoke on a number of other topics including the upcoming television contract negotiations saying he was hopeful current network partners ESPN and FOX would return as part of the next deal.

The CEO is not overly concerned with slumping attendance at some tracks pointing to the still downward trend in the economy and weather issues as reasons events like last Sunday’s race in Dover experienced more empty seats.

“Dover had tremendous bad weather forecast, it’s a miracle that that event, and I’m not making just total excuses here, but it’s a miracle on Saturday and Sunday that they got races off,” France said. “There were no-shows, there was certainly no walk-up. They didn’t get any help from the weather.”

“There’s not many sports that aren’t being affected in one way or another in attendance and they’re having to do a lot of things and so are we, so are the tracks. We’ve got higher gas prices that are upon us, that’s another factor for our fans to consider. We certainly don’t want to see empty seats.  We’ll be working with tracks to get the best dates possible and we’ll go from there.’’

Finally France answered a question about the possibility of shortening more races to fit into a better television window as well as appease some fans who claim many races are simply too long.

“We have shortened races over the last five or six years,” France said. “We’ve shortened several, including some in the Nationwide Series. We will be open to that if it works for the tracks and it works for our network partners and, obviously, if the fan base wants that, that will be something that will be case-by-case, but are we open to that? Yes. Have we don’t it before? Yes.”


More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: May 20, 2011 11:13 am

Video of the Day: 1991 All-Star Race

Posted by Pete Pistone

The 1991 edition of NASCAR's annual All-Star Race was a slam bang event that ushered in night racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway and ended in one of the wildest finishes in the event's 27 year history:

Posted on: May 18, 2011 2:29 pm
Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: May 18, 2011 11:15 am

Video of the Day: Atlanta All-Star race

Posted by Pete Pistone

NASCAR's All-Star Race has been held at Charlotte Motor Speedway every year but one. Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted the second running of the event in 1986 but the decision to run a stand-alone race on Mother's Day Sunday proved to be a mistake and the race returned to CMS the following season where it's been contested since:

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com