Drivers Continue To Weigh-In On All-Star Race Debacle After Hectic Weekend

The Sprint All-Star Race format has been the subject of much discussion for many years. What can be done to the format to make it more fun to watch? What can NASCAR do to increase the excitement level in an All-Star Race that has been lacking exactly that for the last few years?

After last weekend’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a new question has cropped up: How much is too much?

Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race format was unique. Three segments, 113 laps. If you saw the race, you probably don’t need a reminder, but here it is just in case.

During the first 50 laps, the drivers were required to make a green flag pitstop for a minimum of two tires.

At the end of the 50 laps, there would be a break/caution, during which a minimum two-tire pitstop was required by the competitors.

During the next 50 lap segment, drivers would be required to make yet another green flag, two tire minimum stop, this time before lap 85.

During the final break, a random draw would determine whether or not the top nine, 10 or 11 would be required to make a mandatory four-tire pitstop while the rest would be forced to stay out.

The last segment would be a 13 lap sprint to the finish where only green flag laps count.

This was arguably the most complex format that the race would ever see. If we were to say the race went off without a hitch … we would be lying. Confusion was rampant, and competitors and fans alike were frustrated with a race that was hard to follow and difficult to understand.

“I’m as baffled as everybody,” said Tony Stewart, who finished 20th after being involved in a multi-car wreck. “I don’t know how in the hell we were scored a lap down after they stopped the 20 car (Matt Kenseth) and the pit everybody together a lap down then lead lap and then lap down. It’s the most screwed up All-Star race I’ve ever been a part of. I’m glad it’s my last one. I’m all right. I’m just madder than hell because I don’t understand how the hell they’ve officiated this from start to finish.”

Was part of Stewart’s frustration coming from the fact that he was involved in a crash with Matt Kenseth and Chase Elliott (among others)? Probably. But Stewart was hardly the only one who felt this way.

During the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. came over the radio and said, “This race reminds me of the first time I tried to fly a remote control helicopter. I had no idea what was going on.”

He elaborated a little more post-race.

“I didn’t know what way up and what way was right and left,” he said post-race. “Lap-down cars were pitting with lead-lap cars and wave-by cars were up front and in the middle. NASCAR did a good job of sorting the lineups out. Everybody was where they were supposed to be when we went back to green so you can’t complain. They were doing it unlike any other way they were doing it before. I’m sure they ran into some scenarios they weren’t really anticipating. That really was probably part of it; guys getting caught a lap down, the 20 not pitting within the first 50 laps. They weren’t anticipating all that.”

Earnhardt finished third.

In fairness to NASCAR, most of the confusion happened during the first segment. All drivers except Matt Kenseth had pitted as the first 50 laps came to a close. Jamie McMurray spun out with just a handful of laps left, and Kenseth was left out front without anymore time to pit under green. NASCAR decided to penalize Kenseth a lap for failing to meet the “green flag pitstop” requirement, but because Kenseth was still the leader, it left many of the cars that were trapped a lap down after making their stops under green. Since Kenseth was still technically the leader, they were unable to take the wavearound.

NASCAR eventually got the situation worked out, but not before competitors, fans, broadcasters and other media members alike were thoroughly confused.

Though the race ended with a dramatic and intense battle between Kyle Larson and eventual race winner Joey Logano, most of the conversation shifted back to the format and the confusion in the first segment.

As the weekend turned into a new week, drivers and fans alike began calling for changes to next year’s All-Star format, asking for a more simplified race that is easier for everyone to follow.

With that said, most drivers seemed to think the racing was exciting, including (and maybe especially) Brad Keselowski, who was almost single-handedly credited with coming up with this format.

The complaints weren’t so much with the quality of the racing product, but rather the difficulty in following the show at all. However, the race straightened itself out in the end, and the beauty of the exhibition All-Star Race is that the impact is almost non-existent as it has no bearing whatsoever on the Chase, championship, or season as a whole.

With the All-Star Race now over a year away, it’s likely the conversations about the format are going to die down over time, only to come right back when the 2017 season rolls back around. It seems unlikely that NASCAR will keep everything the same considering that a vast majority weren’t happy with it, but historically the 2016 Sprint All-Star Race will likely be remembered less for the exciting racing and moreso for the confusion that muddled the field at the beginning of the day.

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