Who cares about the All-Star Race format?

Darrell Waltrip spins following contact from Rusty Wallace in 1989

When racing enthusiasts think of the NASCAR All-Star Race they think of the most legendary moments of that event. No one thinks about the format that was used in whatever years those moments occurred.

It doesn’t matter how many laps there, if there were segments, or if there were mandated pit stops. However, people do remember Darrell Waltrip’s engine mysteriously blowing just as he crossed the finish line in the inaugural “The Winston”(as the All-Star Race was called back then) or when his crew and that of Rusty Wallace duked it out after those two drivers tangled on the last lap in 1989.

Invariably, there will be some racing purist who will complain about the sanctity of racing during the All-Star week saying that whatever format is being used will be detrimental to the sport. The format is merely the vehicle used to get to those memorable happenings bound to take place when competitors are vying for large amounts of money.

There will be no points on the line on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. The championship will not be affected. It’s the drama that matters, not the format.

Sometimes, the events of the race are actually more myth than reality such as the “Pass in the Grass” that was alleged to have occurred when Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott battled for the top prize in 1987 but things like that keep fans coming back so let the legend live on.

Davey Allison won but crashed at the finish line after hard racing with Kyle Petty in 1992 which created a bit of a stir but it’s something many who were fans back then remember and something that will no doubt be highlighted at some point during this weekend’s coverage.

In 1997, Jeff Gordon totally dominated the All-Star Race in a specially prepared car dubbed ‘T-Rex’ with a scheme meant to advertise the Jurassic Park movie franchise. That car has remained the stuff of legend ever since.

Remember when brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch crashed each other while racing for position in 2007? Most people do remember that moment but it’s not likely they remember the format that was being used in that race. And more recently, Clint Bowyer stormed over to Ryan Newman’s car and threw a flurry of punches into the driver’s window after the race in 2019 which was probably not a disagreement over the format being used.

The NASCAR All-Star Race is for the moments that will be remembered. It’s an event that offers a big payout with drivers not having to worry about points. Risks will be taken and rewards earned. Those are the things people will remember ten or twenty years later.

I, for one, have barely even looked at the format that will be used on Sunday and I certainly do not remember any of the formats employed last year or any other year for that matter. Next week’s Coca-Cola 600 is a race where the distance of the event matters, not this one.

At some point in the very near future, I won’t remember what format was used and most other attendees and viewers won’t either. But if one car dominates the race but has an “engine failure” just as it takes the checkered flag or if one driver walks over to another driver’s car after the race and begins throwing punches, we will all remember that.

Please consider also reading:

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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.

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