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Minter: Time For All-Star Race To Hit The Road

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 22 2010

Charlotte Motor Speedway has been the home for the All-Star Race for most of its existance. Time to change that? (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

To those with very long NASCAR memories, it might sound absurd for a guy from Atlanta to suggest putting the All-Star race back on the road again, but here goes.

The most likely reason the sport’s decision makers abandoned the original plans to make the all-star race a traveling event is the disaster at Atlanta in 1986, the second running of the event.

It was doomed from the start for several reasons, none of which had anything to do with the location. For one, it was run on Mother’s Day, not the Saturday before like the Southern 500, but on Sunday when any self-respecting person is honoring a mom somewhere other than at a race track.

And the format was a dud. Only 10 drivers were eligible for the main event, and only 13 ran the preliminary race. There was no imagination in the format, just straight-up racing with not many cars on a big race track.

The person who came up with the official crowd estimate of 18,500 most likely had charity in his or her heart when they came up with that number.

So the all-star race went back to Charlotte, where the track’s president Humpy Wheeler pulled out all his promoting stops and made it into a must-see event.

He put in lights at the track just in time for one race. The format was tinkered with to ratchet up interest.

NASCAR’s rules enforcers told the boys to “Have at it” and since no points were on the line, just money, and they usually did.

But today, the boys have at it every week. Double-file restarts, multiple attempts at green-white-checkered-flag finishes and the relaxation of the rules have made every race like an all-star event from a fender-banging-finish standpoint.

What the all-star race needs, and what NASCAR needs, is a stiff jolt. And that could be gotten by taking the race back on the road. With tracks across the country wanting a Sprint Cup race and the schedule already as long as it can reasonably be, it makes little sense to have three races at one track.

The all-star race should rotate among Cup tracks that host just one Cup race a year and other NASCAR tracks that now host only Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races. Take it to Nashville, to Iowa Speedway, to Gateway, to the Milwaukee Mile. I’d even put Rockingham and North Wilkesboro in the mix.

Use the race to build back interest in the sport among the people who feel left behind and left out. The all-star race needs to be something different from a regular race, and this would definitely be different.

Most drivers this week will tell reporters how much they enjoy spending two weeks sleeping in their own beds. But in today’s NASCAR world, that shouldn’t be a high priority.

Charlotte’s got the Hall of Fame and two points-paying Cup races besides the All-Star race.

The situation reminds me of a often-used saying around our house. When one person gets to acting a little selfish, another will inevitably say: “It’s not all about YOU!”

Charlotte, it’s not all about you.

It’s time to share a little of the wealth for the overall health of the sport.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 22 2010
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