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All-Star Format Announced, Sort Of Explained

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, May 6 2016
Brad Keselowski helped put together format for 2016 All-Star race. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Brad Keselowski helped put together format for 2016 All-Star race. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Time will tell if the format for this year’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be a big challenge for the teams and drivers competiing in it. But it’s obvious right now that the format is a big challenge for those seeking to understand it.

buganalysisThe format was announced on Friday in Charlotte. It includes segments, of course – three of them; two of 50-lappers and a final 13-lap dash – but so much more.

To wit:  The starting order for the final segment will be determined following a random draw that decides if the top running nine, 10 or 11 cars have to pit for a mandatory four-tire stop between Segment 2 and Segment 3. Pit road will be closed for all other cars, and those for which pit stops were mandated must resume position for the final sprint, lining up behind the cars that did not pit.

Confused? So was driver Carl Edwards when at least two attempts were made to explain it to him during his press conference at Kansas Speedway on Friday.

Afterward, he gave a long, winding opinion that implied; gee, this could be fun. But he quickly added, “I might be completely wrong on all that stuff.”

Then there are couple other tidbits:

Additional rules are as follows:

Starting order for the opening 50-lap segment for the All-Star Race will be determined by qualifying, and includes a mandatory green flag pit stop with a minimum of two tires.

A break between Segment 1 and Segment 2 includes a mandatory pit stop with a minimum of two tires. The exit off pit road following that stop sets the starting order for Segment 2.

During the 50-lap second segment, cars must make a green-flag pit stop and change a minimum of two tires prior to Lap 85.

The Sprint Showdown includes three total segments of 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps. The winner of each of those sprints earns a start in the All-Star Race.

What kind of bizarre mind would come up with the new format?

Turns out it some of the “thinking” behind the format was driver and different-beat marcher Brad Keselowski.

“Someone reached out to me and asked me from the Charlotte Motor Speedway what we could do to make the race the best possible,” the Team Penske driver said, “and I put a little bit of thought into it.  I know another group of drivers did as well and we all kind of pitched in some ideas.  I don’t know, I don’t think that I was all the ideas, but maybe the one that seems to catch everyone’s attention.

“I just wanted to see the race something that I would want to watch if I was a fan, and something that I would want to be proud of if I was the driver that won it.  Quite honestly, I didn’t feel like the formats of the past few years were that way.  So when sitting down and kind of going over it all, I kind of had this over-arching theme that I think our sport is best when at the end of the day we have what I call common winds, where everybody is happy. Those are easy to say, hard to do, but I think they’re out there.”

Keselowski was asked about the 13-lap final segment. Specifically, where did that number come from?

“I would like to take full credit for that,” he said, “but I think probably more credit on that belongs to the speedway of trying to come up with a number that would stand out and, for some reason, everyone keeps asking that question, ‘Why that number?’  And I think that’s great.  That means they were right.  It’s not like some devil-worshiping thing, I can promise you that, but when we looked at the number it would take for the driver to drive through the field in the scenarios that we played out, on average it was 8-12 laps.  If you make a mistake, it could take as much as 15 laps, so I think that’s kind of where the number came from was trying to fit in between that 10-15 lap range and that was a unique number that hit it and could generate some interest.”

Keselowski, a former Cup champion, seemed pretty proud of what he and his co-conspirators had come up with.

Gimmicky? You bet, he said.

And so what?

“I think what you’re gonna see in the All-Star Race is going to be the modern day format of excellence for that type of race because a lot of things have changed,” he said. “It’s not 1990 anymore.  It’s not 1992 anymore.  I think we’ve seen aerodynamics come in the sport and really make it so much more difficult to pass than ever before, and the format is meant to combat that challenge. There is probably an argument to be made that it’s a little bit gimmicky, and that’s fair, but it’s the All-Star Race and I feel like the All-Star Race gets a free pass on gimmicks to some extent, and it should be a short, fun, amazing race.  I’m feeling pretty optimistic that it’s going to be the best race of the year.”

It will certainly be the hardest to understand.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, May 6 2016
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