News & Media

Weekend Review: All-Star Race didn't match hype

May 23, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

CONCORD, N.C. -- On the eve of NASCAR's All-Star Race, an event promoters hailed as a knockdown, drag-out, mad-dash, swashbuckling, eye-popping, knee-knocking, white-knuckling race for pride, glory and a million smackeroos, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a suggestion: Spice it up! Even more! "Make it a little bit more a stick of dynamite than a whole long row of 180s," he said.

If only NASCAR had listened. Saturday night's race was a long row of duds. Not to get carried away, but the race was so boring that Kyle Busch -- the man everyone expected to be the TNT in the dynamite -- apologized to reporters for the lack of drama. He was mostly kidding, but he was also right. "From my vantage point, it was a tame race [Saturday]," Busch said. Even the quotes about how boring the race was were boring.

Carl Edwards stunk up the show by being way faster than everybody else. The nerve! At least the post-race celebration promised to be exciting, what with Edwards' plans to paint the town red. Or not. "I'm really excited about going to Iowa [Sunday]," he said, where he competed in the Nationwide Series event.

For the first three segments of the four-segment race, not much happened. And even if it did, nobody cared because the looming 10-lap shootout at the end promised to make the preceding laps irrelevant. For the record, Brad Keselowski's brakes failed in the first segment, and he somehow stayed in the race, suggesting that this truly is, as the marketers proclaimed, an anything-goes race. Anything does indeed go, but it doesn't necessarily go fast. Kurt Busch's car was so bad, he said on his radio that he'd rather wad the car into the wall then suggest changes to it. "Do whatever you want. I don't care. It's never going to turn," he said before manhandling that piece of junk into the top 10 eventually finishing 13th. Which says something about his driving ability. Or everybody else's.

The search for something noteworthy on this night that lacked it did turn up one thing: Charlotte Motor Speedway had its first chance to show off a video screen as big as a driver's ego. It is so massive it made even the race interesting. Not really, but dang, that thing is huge.

Absent any action on the track, gawking slack-jawed at the screen sufficed to keep fans interested until the final 10-lap segment, which no matter how uneventful the first three portions were, everyone swore would be a wide-open shootout with drivers beating and banging off each other and driving like maniacs and wrecking their grandmothers to win ... only none of that happened because Edwards took the green flag to start the final section and pulled away from everybody, and his car was so much stronger than the rest of the field that nobody would have ever caught him no matter how long (or short) that part of the race was. He was to the rest of the field as the new video screen is to the screen on your smartphone.

Edwards' car was so fast that after he won, he was asked if his dominance was proof that Dale Jr. was right and that changes need to be made to the All-Star format. "Hell no," he said, and he smiled his Edwards grin. "It's perfect."

Wait! Something interesting happened! Edwards broke his car as he slid through the grass while doing his victory burnout, the rough equivalent of pulling a muscle on a walk-off home run (at the end of a boring game). It looked like he ran over something hard, but track personnel insisted there is nothing hard there, so apparently his splitter just dug into the grass. Whatever, he had to leave his car in a smoking heap in the grass. Just like the reputation of the All-Star Race.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.