By Kent Whitaker
The 2017 NASCAR All-Star Race format has been released. The race has been a topic of NASCAR fans for years. You either hate it or love it. And, there’s even a third and fourth category. You either understand it or you don’t. That may be changing.
Instead of running a regular race featuring some of the biggest names in the sport, the All-Star race has developed into a series of gimmick races over the last few years. Every year it’s a different format, different rules, and other items inserted in to give the race a special feeling.
The race has lost its luster and NASCAR knows this. That’s why NASCAR has done something a bit different this year. The 2017 format for the all-star race may be the best one in years. It actually has more of a connection to a normal race with a pretty neat added twist.
Selection and A Million Bucks!
First things first. The All-Star race does not include every driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Here’s how a driver is selected to compete in the 2017 race courtesy of NASCAR Media.
- Drivers in the race will consist of drivers who won a points event in either 2016 or 2017; drivers who won a Monster Energy Series All-Star Race and compete fulltime; and drivers who won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete fulltime.
- Those who have not already earned a spot via the above criteria can still lock-in by winning a stage in the Monster Energy Open or by winning the Fan Vote.
Here’s who is already locked into the 2017 All-Star Race.
Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. – Source: NASCAR Media.
Oh, finally – the winner gets a million bucks!
In 2017, NASCAR rolled out the segment format for races in its top-tier divisions. Races are broken down into three segments which force a restart. Those restarts flow into the race along with restarts coming after regular cautions.
The 2017 NASCAR All-Star Race will also feature a segmented format. The idea is that winners of the segments, and some other cars close behind, will move forward – closer to the million dollar prize money. The easiest way to explain this is from the information released by NASCAR.
- The race will feature four stages (20 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps, 10 laps), totaling 70 laps, an ode to the 1992 edition of the same distance.
- The goal for all competitors: Earn a spot in the final 10-lap, 10-car stage.
- The winner of each of the first three stages will lock up a spot in the final stage, as long as they remain on the lead lap after the third stage.
- The cars with the best average finish in the first three stages will make up the remaining spots needed to fill the 10-car final stage.
- The remaining 10 cars will be lined up by average finish of the first three stages and given the option to pit. Exit off pit road determines starting order for final stage.
- The winner will be awarded $1,000,000.
- source: NASCAR Media
Better than the NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB?
The National Football League has changed All-Star Game formats almost as many times as NASCAR! They have tried a few things over the years. It’s definitely better than NFL All-Star games of the past where fans actually booed the players lack of effort on the field.
The NBA pumps up their All-Star event with side events and the ever-popular Slam Dunk Contest. The NHL plays a semi-spirited game with proceeds going towards the retired players pension fund.
Then comes the All-Star game for Major League Baseball. The MLB version suffered from lack of player effort for many years. It was similar to the efforts put forth by players in the NFL games of the early 2000’s – aka boring! Then, the higher-ups of MLB had a great idea.
They made the game count for something! The winner of the MLB All-Star game helps determine home and away games during the play-offs (which has changed again this year). The game suddenly was a must win for many players. Oh yea, the Home Run Derby is always popular!
Did you see my story from the Texas Motor Speedway? Well it’s a must read…click here to see it.
Softer Tires at the Race
There’s one more twist that has been inserted into the NASCAR All-Star Race. There will be two types of tires available for Goodyear. A regular set, and a softer set. I’m not getting into different tire types for this article but here’s the basics for context to this article.
Goodyear, the provider of tires to NASCAR, formulates tires for every race and track on the schedule. They test constantly. Then, on a race weekend – Goodyear brings one type of tire to the track for all of the teams to use.
For the All-Star Race there will be two styles available. This little twist may be the most interesting thing about the race. When will a team choose to jump to that one set of softer tires? Do you use them early to help gain a position? Are they put on towards the end for one final dash for the million bucks? This aspect of the race will be fun to watch as teams show their hands.
The Bottom Line
The 2017 NASCAR All-Star Race is a step in the right direction. The format, as tricky as it seems, is a bit easier to understand than past editions. The added twist of the two tire types will be a dominating topic for race fans and NASCAR call-in shows.
Regardless, die-hard fans will show up and buy tickets and watch on TV. But, until major league sports decide to follow the MLB and make their All-Star games mean something, then interest will always be lighter than a regular season event. Who knows, maybe in the future NASCAR will attach a couple of points to the race. Now that would be an interesting gimmick!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kent Whitaker, often called 'the Deck Chef,' is a sportswriter, culinary writer, and cookbook author with fourteen titles. He covers NASCAR, racing in general, Football, barbecue, grilling, and tailgating. You can visit him on www.thedeckchef.com."