What's wrong with NASCAR's All-Star Race (and how to fix it)
It has all the ingredients to be the most compelling of any All-Star event.
While the NBA's, NFL's and NHL's games get criticized for lackadaisical play, there's no lack of intensity in NASCAR's All-Star Race; the
"You just worry about trying to go fast and win," said
NASCAR's All-Star Race should be massive. It should be can't-miss. It should be the kind of racing that fans who complain about the passiveness of big-picture points racing get excited about. But the race that gave us the famous "
But the good news is the All-Star race can be fixed ... and The Racing Fan has a few ideas about how to do it.
Convoluted? Without question. The built-in breaks can put a major damper on the action and there would seem little reason to mandate pit stops; with the inherent intensity of running for this kind of money, there are going to be wrecks and there are going to be cautions.
The addition of the 10-lap finale was great; it guarantees the excitement of a green-white-checkered finish, but let's forget about basing the starting order on a team's ability to get off pit road. Give us a standard 90 laps, and then have the cars line up for the 10-lap sprint to the finish. It's a simplified approach that would keep the nail-biting aspect of the final run and lose the needless intermissions.
Does that kind of criteria really give us an All-Star field? In the last four years, we've had the likes of
Of course the fan vote is a fail-safe guarantee that a driver the stature of Junior gets in -- he last won the All-Star race in '00, so his exemption is up -- but shouldn't the fans be the ones to set the entire lineup instead of providing a safety net? If the race is supposed to be about generating ratings, shouldn't NASCAR follow in the footsteps of MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL and let them decide who is an All-Star?
They began running the race in 1985 and only once was it not run in Charlotte (in 1986, when it was in Atlanta). I know Charlotte is the home of NASCAR and it's where all the drivers live, so by having the event in their backyards, it allows them to have an additional week with their families. Plus, the Hall of Fame is in Charlotte and the induction is just 48 hours after the All-Star race, so having it there makes sense from a media coverage standpoint. But next season the HOF inductions are moving to January and it's not like Charlotte is lacking for events. With it already hosting two points races a year, why give Charlotte the All-Star race each and every season?
If the race is supposed to be about the fans, then shouldn't NASCAR be taking it to the fans by rotating tracks? Schedule it at a road course, a restrictor-plate track or a short track, but let's mix it up. It's the novelty of having an All-Star event at your local venue that sells tickets and increases local revenue, so why not switch venues and allow it to benefit different cities instead of just one?
In the first three years is in which SPEED carried the race, viewership averaged a 3.63 Nielsen Household Rating. But last season, when a SPEED representative said most of their marketing and advertising went toward pushing the inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony, that rating fell slightly to a 3.3.
As steady as SPEED's ratings may be, it's still only available in 80 million households, compared to 115 million for Fox, 113 million for ABC and 100 million for ESPN and TNT, the other networks that air NASCAR races. It may see a bump from last year's rating if Fox's early viewership is any indication. As detailed by
But the fact of the matter is that NASCAR's other television partners reach more viewers than SPEED does, and an event that's supposed to be a showcase should be in as many households as possible. But there's little hope of this one changing for at least a few years with SPEED holding the rights to the race until the current TV deal expires at the end of the '14 season.