NASCAR is trying really, really, really hard to gin up some drama in the All-Star Race.
Texas Motor Speedway announced the format for the June 13 exhibition race Wednesday evening and, boy, is it not straightforward.
The race will be 100 laps and broken up into six stages. That's double the stages of a normal NASCAR race at Texas in less than a third of the mileage. Couple all those stages with a reduction in horsepower and it's pretty clear that NASCAR is counting on entertaining restarts and the cars as close together as possible to manufacture competitiveness.
There are a lot of other gimmicks too. You can read those in full here. There's a random draw for the starting lineup and the field will be inverted three times in various fashions through the first five stages. Then the starting order for the final stage of the race will be determined via drivers' average finishes through the first five stages. Hopefully Fox gets that calculation right this time.
In short, it's an overwhelmingly complicated way to design an auto race and a tacit admission that NASCAR and Texas Motor Speedway know they need to do something — or lots of somethings in this case — to try to make the racing entertaining.
But there's got to be simpler ways to do that, right? Here are our modest and far simpler All-Star Race proposals. We're confident they'd be easier to follow and have more entertainment potential than the 2021 iteration promises.
A race without announced rules
Teams would bring cars that conform to the current intermediate track rules to Texas Motor Speedway. Two hours before the race, NASCAR would distribute a bulletin outlining what rules would be different for the All-Star Race. Teams would then have to scramble to conform to NASCAR’s surprise changes while drivers would have no idea how their cars will drive.
A race with very few rules
What an opportunity to show off the ingenuity of NASCAR teams. With a six-week head start, teams could get creative in finding speed. There would have to be some rules of course — safety can’t be compromised — but giving teams tons of options for the splitters, spoilers and other aerodynamic and suspension components of the car would give teams the chance to see who could be the most creative.
With Jimmie Johnson now in IndyCar we’d get the chance to find out who the fittest current NASCAR driver is. Three or four laps around Texas Motor Speedway on foot would provide some compelling television.
An iRacing race featuring drivers’ kids
This isn’t a farfetched fantasy now that Keelan Harvick was a participant in the most recent iRacing Pro Series race at Talladega. If a driver doesn’t have kids then he would have to pick a family member under the age of 10. It could be a preview of what NASCAR rivalries will look like in 2040.
A race from Texas Motor Speedway to the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport
Real NASCAR fans know that drivers care just as much about the race from the track to their chartered aircraft after real races, so why not turn that drive into some compelling television? Each driver could get a manufacturer-specific rental car with a dash camera installed. First one to the American Airlines check-in counter wins.
Real-life Mario Kart
Texas could set up a short track on the backstretch for legends cars. Each driver would be assigned a car equipped with small barrel full of oil at the back and a medicine ball launcher attached to the front. Drivers would have the opportunity to launch two medicine ball “turtle shells” at their opponents ahead and drop an oil slick or two to unsuspecting opponents behind.
A 100-lap race with no stages and no planned cautions
It’d be a bold ploy for television ratings of 15 years ago when millions more fans watched races without stages or planned cautions. And as you saw with the convoluted rules outlined above, NASCAR is willing to take some risks.
No All-Star Race at all
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