An All Star Game is exciting no matter how sloppily played or irrelevant the rules. The league always tries to put its best foot forward and display its star talent, unless that league is NASCAR.
After the Daytona 500 draws 15 million viewers in February on network TV, the All Star race will be lucky to find 2.5 million viewers in May on a niche market cable channel. This raises the question: why is NASCAR stupid? The All Star race should be on network TV or at least a mainstream cable station if it is to be relevant.
Of course timing also plays an important role. While the race is on in May, it must compete for TV ratings with NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs. It also competes for attention from sports discussion and highlight shows (not to mention the occasional newspaper) with French Open tennis. Attendance also suffers as many people would sooner attend the 600-mile race one week later. The prudent move would be to hold the race in late June, one week before the second Daytona race. While we?re at it, let?s put the race back on Sunday night because not many people look forward to watching TV on Saturday night.
The race itself is far from perfect. Many people think starting with long segments and ending with a shootout makes a better race. While this may produce a better finish, it actually makes an inferior race. Early long segments encourage sandbagging. If a driver knows the field is going to get bunched up after 40 laps why would he risk crashing early? Segments should get progressively longer. Ending the segments has become a sloppy matter since the yellow flag could freeze the field. Make a new flag if you have to, just end the segment at the finish line.
Can we rethink the pit crew competition? I realize that empirically rating crews based on one at a time pit stops doesn?t make for good television, but do we really have to break down the individual actions of a pit stop to make a gimmicky spectacle that no one watches? It?s nice to know the event won?t be rained out because it?s indoors, but that also prevents anyone from actually driving the cars. Most drivers don?t bother showing up so the team will pick the smallest person on their payroll to sit inside while it?s being pushed to the finish.
There are several locations that could host the pit crew competition. zMax Dragway (being a four-lane dragstrip) could allow two cars to start in lanes 2 and 4, accelerate (this means someone has to actually start the car) to 45 mph (or slower), and pit in lanes 1 and 3 before being pushed across a finish line. If it rains, I think Goodyear?s rain tires can manage considering that the cars will only be driven in a straight line with a speed limit.
Bank of America Stadium could lay down some temporary asphalt for the event, but if attendance at Time Warner Cable Arena is any indication, there will be about 60,000 empty seats. New asphalt itself is somewhat worrisome as it may deteriorate if drivers try accelerating with a burnout. Knights Stadium has a more realistic seating capacity, but the Charlotte Knights would be forced onto an extended annual road trip while they?re stadium is prepared and refurbished for the event.
Rockingham Speedway (not to be confused with the one in England) would be an acceptable host. After hosting the honest pit crew challenge (and 39 Sprint Cup races), it would be fun to see an ?obsolete? venue host an event too small for most modern venues. A pit crew competition here means pitting two cars on the front straight at the same time and racing across two different finish lines, which may detract from the heads-up nature of the modern pit crew competition.
Bowman Gray Stadium is more of a long shot. After hosting 29 Sprint Cup races it?s a favorite among thirtysomethings reminiscing about how the world was forty years ago. This track would require cars to pit on opposite sides of the track, but they would still enter their stalls under power before being pushed out after service. The biggest challenge is getting people to drive 80 miles from Charlotte to Winston-Salem.
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