Thursday, May 19, 2016

The All-Star Race Explained: “News” and Notes

It’s time for the third most-confusing weekend of the Nascar schedule (after Daytona qualifying and wondering how the awards ceremony can be so terrible every year)—the Sprint All-Star Race!  Yet again there’s been a bunch of changes to the format so here’s a race-by-race, segment-by-segment guide to Nascar’s night of stars (aka “Dover Redux” or “Prelude to the 600”):

—Automatically qualified for the All-Star Race are any winners from 2015 or 2016 (so far), any past champions (Tony Stewart), and any past All-Star winners who are still running full-time (Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Newman) for a total of 15 drivers.  Personally, I miss the days when ANY former All-Star race winner could automatically qualify, leading to “What the hell is Geoff(rey) Bodine doing out there?” questions throughout the land.
The only thing that can spoil the followup
to a fantastic Cup race?  RAIN.

—Five (yes, five) other positions are filled via the Sprint Showdown and the fan vote:  The Showdown will have two 20-lap segments and one 10-lap segment with the winners OF EACH SEGMENT advancing to the All-Star race the next night (remember, the Showdown is on Friday).  Thankfully they automatically move on, and don’t have to pretend to keep competing by running around at the back of the pack.  Oh, and there’s a minimum 2-tire pit stop in between Segments 1 & 2 and 2 & 3, because, well, why the hell not?

—After the three Showdown drivers have advanced, the top two vote-getters in the fan vote who have not advanced otherwise also make the All-Star Race.  So, basically, Danica Patrick and Matt DiBurrito.

—The All-Star Race’s new format is being called the “Brad Keselowski Rule”, since it was BKes himself who proposed the changes.  Huh, is it even possible to get odds on when someone says “Hey—I’m surprised it doesn’t include going on Twitter!”?

—Qualifying will be held Saturday evening to determine starting positions for Segment 1—these qualifying laps will include a four-tire pit stop in which cars will run down pit road without ANY speed limit.  Finally, a pit road format that Denny Hamlin can excel at!

—Segment 1 is 50 laps long and must include a minimum 2-tire pit stop under green.  After Segment 1 there’s a break period in which another minimum 2-tire pit stop must be taken (under yellow).  Then in Segment 2 there’s ANOTHER mandatory pit stop under green, this time before lap 85 (or lap 35 of the segment itself).  Jeez, Nascar really wants to put focus on the pit crews, I guess.  Too bad they couldn’t do something like, oh, i dunno, maybe having the pit crews do pit stops in a big arena, using that “challenge” to determine starting position?

—After Segment 2 there’s a break period and a random draw determines if the first 9, 10, or 11 cars will be forced to pit road for a mandatory four-tire pit stop, with the rest of the field forced to stay out on old tires.  No idea how they’ll do the draw, but I’m hoping against hope that they bring back the old Winston Plinko-board.

—After the lead cars come off pit road, they’ll rejoin the field for a massive wreck, followed by 13 laps of green-flag pit stops.  The winner gets a cool million—no word on if Bruton Smith’s lukewarm million dollar bonus is still available.