The view from my couch

Time for a Change?
by Sally Baker
May 16, 2005

The term “All Star” usually means getting athletes that typically compete against each other – as, for instance, on different, opposing teams – and putting them together on a new 'team', forming something temporary and unique. Sometimes, it can be taking top competitors that seldom compete head to head, and creating a situation for them to do so, as in the IROC series. I don't see how NASCAR's version comes close to either definition. They take the same cars and drivers that compete against each other every week, eliminate about 75 % of the cars, add a lot of gimmicks, and call it an “All Star” race. Pardon me, but isn't that about the same thing as the “Chase for the Cham-peenship”?

I realize that NASCAR and Winston created this event as a way to bring attention to a sport that was either laughed at as a bunch of Good Old Boys running in circles, or ignored altogether. It was surrounded by incredible hype, paid an obscene amount of money to win, and was packed with as many gimmicks as possible. It got attention at a time when stock car racing needed it badly.

NASCAR already runs at least 17 weekends without a break, crisscrossing the country on a schedule that Rube Goldberg would love. Since NASCAR has filled its regular races with plenty of gimmicks lately, do they really need to devote an entire weekend to a gimmick within a gimmick? Many of the things that made the All Star Race unique have become run of the mill. For instance:

ASR (All Star Race) – Only race winners, or former ASR winners (within the past 10 years) qualify to run in the race.

Cup – With the new format, only the top 10 after 26 races are eligible to win the title.

ASR “Wild Card” – Fans are allowed to vote for 9almost0 any non winning driver to compete in this 'pointless race.

Cup – NASCAR uses the top 10 to fill their non playoff, but leave room for any driver within 400 points of the leader after 26 races, thus creating, in effect, the possibility of a 'wild card' in the mix. They do NOT, however, encourage or acknowledge fan input in any way. Any fan expressing negative reaction to their decisions (eliminating races at Rockingham, losing The Southern 500, or dislike of the chase) have not only been ignored, but actively sneered at by management. Fan 'appreciation' stops at the wallet.

ASR – To create more interest, there is at least a partial inversion of the field, putting the faster cars at the back of the pack.

Cup – When they eliminated racing back to the line under caution for safety reasons, NASCAR instituted a charity lap rule. Under this rule, the first car a lap down is automatically put back on the lead lap, no matter how far they are running behind the leader. This has allowed several drivers over the past two seasons to 'come back' for top 10 finishes.

See what I mean about the similarities? Heck, with NASCAR trying to package races more conveniently so television can put races into an allotted time slot, future races may not be much longer than the ASR!

Note: They really need to come up with an easier way to refer to this race now. 'The Winston' was short and simple. But, given NASCAR and Fox's obsession for obnoxious or cutesy phrases (“Race for the Chase”, “Chase for the Championship”, and the dreaded “Boogity”), I'm afraid of what they will come up with!

Wouldn't it make more sense to have the ASR on, say, the Wednesday or Thursday before The 600? Give everyone a week off, or have time to make up for a weather problem? I realize that would cut 4 or 5 days off the opportunity for area motels to charge double or triple their normal rates, and NASCAR would lose out on the lucrative concession money, but, hey – it would give fans a break. With impound rules taking cars off the track, gas prices rising, and ticket 'packages' requiring personal loans, how about worrying about saving the fans some money?

So, maybe instead of worrying about where the "All Star" race should be held, the question should be whether it needs to be held anywhere.

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