NASCAR made several changes to the format for the 2017 Monster Energy All-Star Race that set the table to potentially make it one of the best-ever. The expectations were running high, but at the end of the night, disappointment set in after what some are deeming it one of the most boring All-Star Races in recent history.
The new elements added by NASCAR should have created excitement and hard racing. The excitement and anticipation was there, at least in the days and hours leading up to the event.
The optional tire was to have added a new level of strategy. Teams could decide when to use the tires which offered more grip and higher speeds, at least in the short run. The tires were expected to “fall-off” more quickly making the decision of when to use them even more difficult.
Another element added this year were the four stages. Each stage was fairly short with laps of 20, 20, 20, and 10 adding a sense of urgency to the drivers. The short stage should cause the drivers to race hard from the drop of the green flag in an effort to get to the front a quickly as possible.
To further strengthen the driver’s desire to race hard, NASCAR also added an average finish requirement. The ten drivers with the highest average finish would be allowed to compete in the final stage and race for the $1M dollar prize. No longer could drivers win one stage to secure their spot in the final and then ride around at the back of the pack. Each driver must make every effort to finish as high as possible in each stage. Need more? Winners of the race and each stage also earned playoff points to make racing hard even more valuable.
As one can see, NASCAR made every effort to make this race exciting for the fans and challenging for the drivers and teams. However, once again, we walk away from an All-Star Race with complaints, disappointment and questions. Why did it not work? What can we do to fix it?
Given everything NASCAR put in place for this event, this race should have been spectacular. So, if the format was not the issue, what then could be the problem? The venue perhaps?
It is time that NASCAR seriously considers moving the All-Star Race to another venue. Charlotte Motor Speedway has a great history and the speedway is located in the epicenter of stock car racing, but it also has a history of a significant number of lackluster races. Refer back to the 2016 Coca-Cola 600 in which Martin Truex Jr led 392 of 400 laps for example. Nothing screams excitement more than watching one car lead the entire day.
In Saturday night’s event, Kyle Larson won Stage 1 and Stage 2, leading every lap. Jimmie Johnson won Stage 3 leading 19 of 20 laps. Busch, of course, won the final stage, leading all ten laps. Notice the pattern here?
There have been a few exciting All-Star Races at Charlotte, but they are few and far between. To be fair, some races in the past have been failures due to the format, but not this year, NASCAR put a great format in place.
It is time to move this event to a short track such as Bristol or Martinsville. Perhaps a short track is the final element needed to finally make this event a success. Dare we mention the possibility of moving it to a superspeedway? Imagine the controversy if NASCAR suggested moving the All-Star Race to one of the superspeedways.
Bristol, Martinsville, Daytona or Talladega; regardless of which one of these were chosen, it is almost guaranteed it would be more exciting than what we witnessed Saturday night.