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Pedley: Time To Reel In The All-Star Race

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 19 2010

The All-Star Race can be an assault on the senses. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Now let’s see: Is it four segments with a 10-lap shootout, or is it 10 segments with a four-lap shootout? And is this the one for pole winners or is this the one for race winners or the one with former series champions or the one with former event champions or all four of the above? Or three of the four?

The Sprint All-Star Race is this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway and I’ve got to admit: Not a big fan.

Not a fan of the all-star events in other sports either, but then really not a fan of many other sports period.

The big clue as to the reasons for not being a big fan of the NASCAR event in the previous sentence is use of the word “event”.

Me, I like racing.

In an effort to make something wildly extravagant which inherently is not, those who control the all-star event – NASCAR and Sprint – have turned it into an unappetizing stew.

Something which should be must-see for race fans has become hard-to-watch for this one.

Start with the format. It’s not so much that the race is segmented. I love the Chili Bowl and Knoxville Nationals and heat races and B Mains and all that. It’s just that from year to year at the All-Star Race, you don’t know how many segments and you don’t know how long they are without first assembling a flip card.

I suppose you could listen to the television guys if you are watching at home, but you shouldn’t have to.

Note to NASCAR: Pick a format and go with it. It’s tough to build solid tradition on a foundation of shifting sands.

And as far as participants, it seems they change the entry rules every year so that the car count adds up to be a pre-determined number. It’s like: Let’s see, if we include blue cars with even integers whose drivers are 32.4 years old we will get to a car count which marketing has determined to be most watchable.

Then there are the theatrics. Designed around the shiny-object theory I suspect, they only subtract from the night.

First, got to wonder what the bill from the fireworks company is when it lands on Bruton Smith’s desk in Charlotte on Monday morning. Could it pay for a new wing for the children’s hospital?

The musical accompaniment is loud, mindless and not stop. Shouldn’t the thought of 20 or so of the best stock car drivers in the world cranking up 800 horsepower engines on a Saturday night in high def on national television with nothing more at stake than personal pride serve as sufficient stimulus to excite the fans in the stands and on the couches?

And, finally, the driver intros. A swing and a miss. The crews coming out looking all bad and evil and the drivers join their over-the-wall posse and they all walk off the stage and high-five their way through a manufactured crowd of supposedly delirious extras.

It’s a rock video staged long after rock videos have become parodies of themselves.

The thing is, the concept of an all-star race is a good one. A great one: The top teams competing in a race in which the inherently boring nature of points racing is left out of the equation, where, in theory, drivers will be a bit more willing to take risks, where Saturday night and Sunday afternoon meet and mix and the result is a tasteful treat.

And there has been excellent racing in the past. Big moments. Passes in grasses brothers beating on brothers.

It’s just too over done, too prefabricated, too Hollywood, too much.

Or is that the Bud Shootout I’m thinking of?

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 19 2010
3 Comments

3 Comments »

  • wayne says:

    You gotta lighten up folks!!! It’s an allstar race its supposed be entertaining for the fans. Lots of double file restarts and pit stops.(Sorry about your luck drivers, but that’s the price of fame and fortune.) Home run, slam dunk and shoot out competitions, all by allstars in their sports and the fans love it. Keep working on it NASCAR.

  • Keith says:

    1st thing is to get it off of the Speed Channel. I would watch it Saturday night if it was on a station the was on my cable in OC Maryland but i’m not giving up a weekend at the beach to stay home and watch it. I’ll be at the Bar Saturday watching Hockey instead.

  • Steve says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Pick a format and stick to it. Your not going to please everyone anyway. Also, stop with all the breaks during the races. People on the East Coast trying to stay awake for the finish lose interest when you stop all the cars on pit road for a “break”. Makes no sense and turns people off to the whole thing especially when you spend an unnecessary amount of time earlier in the night on driver intros and having bands play. I wonder if this year a band will still be playing while the cars are rolling off the grid. Will never forget that one.