Opinion: Racing, Not Gimmicks
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on February 26, 2013 | 9:35 P.M. EST
The Sprint All-Star Race has undergone yet another format change for the 2013 running of the event in May. (Photo: Getty Images)
Another year, another change to the format of the Sprint All-Star Race.
It’s not your imagination if it seems like every season officials try to find a way to pump life into the event that made its debut known as “The Winston” back in 1985.
Back then the concept was simple. Drivers that won a race the previous year qualified for the all-star event, which was a 70-lap dash with a huge payday at the checkered flag.
The early years brought great excitement, drama and action while producing memorable moments like Dale Earnhardt’s “Pass in the Grass,” the Darrell Waltrip-Rusty Wallace scrap that boiled over to a brawl between crew members and the inaugural “One Hot Night” in 1992, when Bruton Smith and “Humpy” Wheeler introduced night racing at a superspeedway.
But as time went on the event has lost its luster. A constant tinkering of formats and an extended starting lineup that eliminated nearly all exclusivity has turned the once special race into a bore.
Now we have a new idea for the 2013 edition that on the one hand at least tries to address the major fumble of last year’s race, but on the other just convolutes things again.
Rather than allowing a driver to hold back in the early stages only to be rewarded with a better starting spot after the final mandated pit stop, the last trip to pit road will be based on an average finishing position from the opening segments.
So in theory it should encourage drivers to race for the front of the field in the four preliminary portions of the event in order to have the shot to come down pit road first for the stop, get service and secure a better starting position for the 10 lap dash.
No word on whether fans will be given free calculators in the grandstands in order to keep up with the math.
There’s also another $1 million bonus on the line paid to a driver capable of winning all five segments, which would add up to a $2 million payday.
Great idea in theory until one driver not named Earnhardt stinks up the show by pacing the field for the entire 90 laps.
And since some drivers in the past have vehemently insisted they were already racing a hard as they could and additional money wouldn’t change their desire then an extra million or so won’t ramp up the competition, right?
There’s one easy fix to all of this and that is to just make the race as simple as possible. Race winners from the previous season, 50 laps from start to finish and a million dollar payday. Line ‘em up and let ‘em race. It’s been pretty obvious gimmicks don’t make racing better. And I for one am exhausted from the recent Sprint Unlimited's bag of tricks.
So let’s just get back to basics.
If not maybe its time to just make the All-Star Race a memory and add another real race to the Sprint Cup schedule. I bet the folks at Iowa Speedway or up in Canada would be on board with that idea.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.