This Sunday, NASCAR is hosting the Cup Series’ yearly All-Star race, an exhibition-style race that pays plenty of cash — a full $1 million — but isn’t worth any points toward the ultimate championship. The format can get a little confusing, since it’s unique to this event and regularly changes. If you’re looking to tune in but don’t know what to expect, we’re here for you.
The NASCAR All-Star race is an annual exhibition race between former winners of the Cup Series and previous Cup Series champions. The race used to be known as The Winston, and it was a way for the stars of NASCAR to compete for upwards of $1 million. In other words, drivers are competing for money, not for points; an All-Star win has no impact on the outcome of the championship.
The event, which used to regularly take place at Charlotte Motor Speedway, is now hosted by Texas Motor Speedway.
Each year now also sees a format change — so even regular viewers of NASCAR can lose track of what’s new for this year.
This year, NASCAR has modified the All-Star Race format to make it a little easier to follow. Before we get to the final event, we need to talk about practice, qualifying, and the All-Star Open race.
There will be two 15-20 minute practice sessions preceding the All-Star Race, but the important stuff starts in qualifying:
- There will be two rounds of qualifying.
- Round 1 will be a single-car qualifying session where each driver completes a lap in reverse order of owner points. The top eight cars move to a head-to-head elimination-style bracket.
- Round 2 features the top eight qualifiers from Round 1. Here, drivers will line up next to one another on pit road, and teams will complete a full four-tire stop. After that, the driver will accelerate onto the track as quickly as possible. The fastest driver wins and moves on to the next round. The final pairing will determine pole position.
Note that this qualifying format does not include the drivers that will be joining the All-Star race after the All-Star Open.
And that means it’s time to talk about the All-Star Open, which will determine the three additional drivers that join the All-Star field:
- The race will consist of three stages. Stages 1 and 2 will both be 20 laps; both green- and yellow-flag laps will be counted. Stage 3 will be 10 laps; only green-flag laps will be counted.
- The winner of each Stage will be eligible to compete in the All-Star Race.
The final driver will be determined via fan vote.
Finally, we’re on to the All-Star format! Here are some of the basics that will make it a little easier to understand:
- The race is 125 laps total, and it will be divided into four stages.
- The first three stages are each 25 laps; the final stage is 50 laps.
- The winner of Stage 1 will start in first place for the final stage so long as he finishes 15th or better in Stages 2 and 3.
- The winner of Stage 2 will start in second place for the final stage so long as he finishes 15th or better in Stage 3.
- The winner of Stage 3 will start third for the final stage.
- There’s a pit crew competition in between Stages 2 and 3; the driver whose team performs the fastest four-tire stop will start fourth in the final stage, so long as he finished 15th or higher in Stage 3.
- If there’s no caution between laps 15 and 25 in the final stage, NASCAR will throw a competition caution.
- The winner of the final stage wins $1 million.
Unlike other NASCAR races, the All-Star race is not open to all of the standard drivers who would compete during a points-paying race weekend. There are a few different ways a driver can qualify:
- They won a points-paying race in 2021 or 2022.
- They’re a current full-time driver and won a previous All-Star Race.
- They’re a current full-time driver and won a previous NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Twenty drivers are currently locked into the event. Four more drivers will join the grid after that: The three stage winners from the All-Star Open and one winner of a fan vote.
Right now, these are the drivers guaranteed a starting spot:
- AJ Allmendinger, No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.
- Aric Almirola, No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
- Christopher Bell, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
- Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Team Penske Ford.
- Alex Bowman, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
- Chase Briscoe, No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
- Kurt Busch, No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota.
- Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
- William Byron, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
- Ross Chastain, No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet.
- Austin Cindric, No. 2 Team Penske Ford.
- Chase Elliott, No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
- Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
- Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
- Brad Keselowski, No. 6 RFK Racing Ford.
- Kyle Larson, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
- Joey Logano, No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
- Michael McDowell, No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford.
- Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
- Bubba Wallace, No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota.
The following drivers are eligible for the fan vote or can race into the field by winning an All-Star Open Race stage:
- Austin Dillon, No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
- Chris Buescher, No. 17 RFK Racing Ford.
- Harrison Burton, No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford.
- Justin Haley, No. 31 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.
- Todd Gilliland, No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford.
- Cole Custer, No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
- Ty Dillon, No. 42 Petty GMS Motorsports Chevrolet.
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet.
- Cody Ware, No. 51 Rick Ware Racing Ford.
- Landon Cassill, No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.
- BJ McLeod, No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports Ford.
NASCAR Cup Series: All-Star Open
- Sunday, May 22
- 5:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1
NASCAR RaceDay: NCS All-Star Race
- Sunday, May 22
- 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1
NASCAR Cup Series: All-Star Race
- Sunday, May 22
- 8 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1