Shades of ’92: NASCAR Announces Format to 70-lap All-Star Event

The 70-lap event is the same distance as the 1992 All-Star race, which saw Kyle Petty spin Dale Earnhardt on the final lap.

As part of NASCAR’s ever expanding changes to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the sanctioning body recently announced its all-new format for the All-Star Race, which will be run at Charlotte Motor Speedway prior to the Memorial Day Weekend’s Coca-Cola 600.

The 70-lap event is the same distance as the 1992 All-Star race, which saw Kyle Petty spin Dale Earnhardt on the final lap. Petty wouldn’t win though, as Davey Allison snuck underneath Petty’s №42 machine and stole the victory despite wrecking. Allison’s wreck sent him to the hospital rather than victory lane even though he captured the checkered flag. The 1992 event was the first race ran under the lights and earned the title “One Hot Night.” With it’s new format, NASCAR is hoping to recreate the excitement behind the ’92 race, 25 years later.

The All-Star event is much shorter than a regular NASCAR race, being roughly 100 miles in total, so it comes out to be 1/5th of your typical NASCAR race seen on Saturday nights or Sunday afternoons. What makes the All-Star Race so exciting? It’s an all-or-nothing shootout for $1 million. No points are on the line and second place goes home empty. Want the million? Better find a way to victory lane.

The All-Star races have produced some classics over the years. From the pass in the grass to the wreck-fest on a rainy night in 2001, where drivers were given an opportunity to go to backup cars as the race was essentially restarted, this year’s event has the chance to produce several memorable moments.

Jeff Gordon won the 2001 All-Star race in a backup car. After several drivers, including Gordon, wrecked on lap one (due to rain), NASCAR allowed drivers to utilize their backup cars. It paid off for Gordon who found himself in victory lane. Image from Fox Sports.

NASCAR hopes these changes will revitalize the All-Star race and viewership. Each of the past three All-Star races have seen a slight decline in ratings. With ticket sales down across the board, the sanctioning body needs TV viewers now more than ever. In 2014, the All-Star event had an overnight rating of 2.2., but it fell to 0.1 each of the past two years for a 2.0 in 2016. While TV viewers actually increased from 2014 to 2015, last year’s event saw a significant drop as only 3.29 million households tuned in compared to 3.84 million the year before. With changes abound this year, NASCAR hopes viewership will increase.

So here’s how it works:

  • The first big change is to The Open, which gives non-qualifiers a chance to race their way into the All-Star event. In contrast to previous years, it’s three stages and each stage winner advances to the All-Star Race.
  • The All-Star Race will be made up of 2016 and 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event winners, Open winners, the fan vote winner and past MENCS/All-Star champions.
  • The four-stage race will be 70 laps in total, split into three 20-lap segments and a final 10-lap dash for the million dollars.
  • New this season, only 10 drivers will advance to the final stage, based on how they finished in the first three stages.
  • Each stage winner will be locked into the final stage, but there’s a catch; they must be on the lead lap at the end of the stage three.
  • The seven non-stage winning drivers who advance to stage four will be entered based on their average finish across the first three 20-lap stages.
  • Drivers will start stage four based on how they exit the pits at the conclusion of stage three.

One of the biggest changes to this year’s format is the introduction of an additional tire choice for the teams. The prime tire — Goodyear’s traditional tire, will be used in both the All-Star event and the Coca-Cola 600 the following weekend.

The “prime” tire, new to this year’s event, is expected to be three to five tenths quicker per lap, but also wear out quicker. Drivers who start stage four on prime tires will start at the back of the field, making for a thrilling 10-lap shootout and a big decision on the shoulders of the crew chiefs.

About the tire, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, stated, “With the effort that Goodyear has put into this race with multiple tire compounds, I am excited to see how the stages play out, especially the final 10-car, 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag.”

Qualifying will take place on Friday, May 19, featuring the traditional four-tire pit stop. The All-Star event is scheduled for Saturday night, May 20. Tune in to see who will win this year’s event featuring an all-new, heart-pounding format sure to please both fans and drivers alike.

As always, tweet me (@Kraig_Doremus) with comments or questions and visit Front Office Sports for the latest NASCAR news and notes.

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