The NASCAR All-Star Race has been bad for so many years that it’s hard to remember when the last halfway entertaining one was, until this year. NASCAR finally found a way to make its All-Star event and the many, many, many other races like it into a good show, but that won’t happen again this year.
That’s because despite NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller saying in May that the sanctioning body was looking at using the racing package from the All-Star again this year in a points-paying race before deciding what to do with it in 2019, NASCAR announced Thursday that isn’t happening, and that parts of the package will come around again in 2019 at the earliest.
The setup NASCAR used at the All-Star race was a higher-drag aerodynamics package and a restrictor plate to cut down on horsepower, in attempts to bring the field together on a 1.5-mile oval called Charlotte Motor Speedway—the type of track where a modern NASCAR field spreads out like every car has body odor and where the leader gets a huge aero advantage from “clean air” out front.
Because the All-Star race is for the top drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series who meet certain qualifications and it’s for $1 million instead of championship points, NASCAR often uses the race to test out ideas to improve racing. It usually doesn’t work well, but this year, that higher-drag package took the racing from a single-file snooze fest and turned it into something that had a closer field, much less of an advantage for the race leader and cars that could actually pass each other.
That’s why it was cool when Miller said NASCAR may use it again this year, especially because a third of the Cup Series schedule is on 1.5-mile ovals.
Not happening. NASCAR announced that the talks now are “centered on how to potentially implement elements of it in 2019 at the earliest.” The “elements of it” part sounds like code for watering it down, but it may just mean NASCAR wants to switch up the approach. From the announcement:
Getting the drafting package in place for additional races in 2018 would have been a Herculean undertaking, and one that could have resulted in a rushed output. Instead, NASCAR will utilize the current rules package – one that has produced competitive racing in 2018 – for the remainder of the season. [...]
And as good as the racing was when the drafting package was in use, there’s the ability for it to get even better – if the implementation is done properly and not rushed. [...]
Competition officials currently are considering an engine package that includes the use of a tapered spacer instead of a plate.
Track type is an important consideration, too — what works at 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway may not provide similar results at a different track type.
There are some good reasons behind wanting to wait, like getting the package where NASCAR wants it before rolling it out for championship races. There was also the idea of cost out there, with Sports Business Journal reporter Adam Stern tweeting that teams didn’t want to use the package more regularly this year unless NASCAR chipped in on costs associated with it—changing the cars and researching the package. (Although, the “research” part will most likely put the racing right back where it was over time, because for competitors, racing is all about an advantage, not putting on a show.)
But if NASCAR team owners didn’t want to spend money, they could always put together a competitive chess squad instead.