NASCAR revises format for All-Star Race at Charlotte
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) Brad Keselowski doesn't want to take all the credit for wholesale changes to the All-Star Race format.
Perhaps because he doesn't want all the blame, either.
NASCAR announced the new format for the May 21 race at Charlotte on Friday. It will feature two 50-lap segments followed by a 13-lap shootout in which a portion of the field will be on fresh tires, an idea dreamed up by Keselowski that is intended to spice up what had become a lame $1 million dash for cash.
''I just had someone reach out to me from Charlotte Motor Speedway and ask, `What could we do to make the race the best possible?' I put a little thought into it and I know some other drivers did, too,'' he said. ''I don't think I was all the ideas but maybe the one that seemed to catch everyone's attention.''
Drivers will be required to pit for at least two tires in each of the 50-lap segments, with the stop in the second segment coming with at least 15 laps to go. Then, a random draw will decide whether the first nine, 10 or 11 cars will have to do a mandatory four-tire stop for the final segment.
The seemingly bizarre twist has a purpose: In past years, where four 25-lap segments were followed by a 10-lap dash, the driver who won the race into Turn 1 for the final 10 laps always wound up winning.
With modern tires and aerodynamics, it was too difficult for anyone to make a pass.
''You're going to win the race one of two ways, most likely, and one of those two ways is you're going to drive through the field in 13 laps. In my belief, that's earning it,'' Keselowski said. ''And if a guy that's 11th or 12th or whatever that number ends up being, he gets the lead and runs away with it, he's going to have to drive his butt off. It's going to be extremely difficult for him.''
Either way, Keselowski figures the victor will have earned it, and that's ultimately the point.
''Our sport is at its best when at the end of the day we have common wins, where everybody is happy. Those are easy to say, hard to do, but they're out there,'' he said. ''I think sometimes we get caught up trying to make one group happy and this sport is more than one group. How do we make drivers feel like they earned it and fans think they had a great race?''
Carl Edwards, who won the 2011 All-Star Race, said the changes will make tires play a key role. How much fall-off will there be, and what will the effect of old tires be on lap times?
''It's historically been a tough place to pass. I look forward to that race being one where we can really mix it up,'' he said. ''All the format changes will just make it more fun of a game.''
Making it more fun is precisely what Keselowski was aiming to do.
He understands that not everyone is going to embrace the changes, and some people may even think they're so far-fetched they refuse to watch. But he's also optimistic it will be ''the best race of the year.''
''There's an argument to be made that it's a little gimmicky and that's fair, but I think the All-Star Race gets a free pass on gimmicks,'' Keselowski said. ''I just wanted the race to be something I'd want to watch as a fan, and something I'd be proud of if I was a driver who won it.
''Quite honestly, I didn't think the format of the past few years was that way.''