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Head2Head: Did the new All-Star format work?

May 21, 2012, ,

The All-Star Race has seen many changes in its short history.

Since the inaugural event in 1985, when it was a 70-lap race with one mandatory pit stop, the sport has tried different tactics to spice things up -- remember the years when the field was inverted midway through the race? -- with mixed results.

For 2012, a format was adopted that rewarded the winners of the first four 20-lap segments. It allowed them to line up first for the mandatory pit stop before the 10-lap shootout.

Did the new All-Star format work?


There continues to be tweaks, but I thought this year's All-Star Race had some of the best racing we've seen in the event in quite some time.

Let's get the obvious out right now. No, there weren't any cautions for wrecks. In fact, this might have been the cleanest All-Star Race in history. Twenty-three drivers took the green and 21 of them finished on the lead lap sans the Roush duo of Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, who were trying out new engines.

If you are a fan of crashes, this race wasn't for you.

Despite the lack of carnage and chaos, Saturday night was pretty entertaining. The four 20-lap segments featured some fantastic racing. There were great passes, not only for the lead, but throughout the field. Numerous times they went three-wide, racing for every spot. Each segment was unique and each was satisfying from a racing perspective.

There have been complaints about the winners of the segments just logging laps waiting for the 10-lap shootout. Hello ... that happened anyway. Except in the past, everyone was laying in the weeds. The first two segments last year were a complete bore. This year, each segment was a race in itself ... and it led to some exciting moments.

Let's be real, all-star events are a challenge to watch. They don't mirror regular-season action and are usually quite a snoozefest. But I'll take Saturday night's All-Star Race over any of the other professional sport midseason showcases.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

When NASCAR changed the All-Star Race format to reward the winners of the first four segments, everyone realized how important it would be to win the first segment. Track position is everything in a 10-lap shootout, and what better way to get it than to be the first to pit. What few anticipated was that it would encourage those winners to take it easy before that final stretch.

Strategy plays an important role in any sport, and it was smart for Jimmie Johnson to ride around in the back after winning the first segment, tuning his car and saving it until the end. Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski followed suit after winning their respective segments. But this is the All-Star Race, where NASCAR's best drivers are supposed to put their skills on display. For most of the race, that didn't happen.

That isn't to say that there weren't those who put their all into it. Kasey Kahne, who started 20th after hitting the wall during qualifying, raced to the front and lost the third segment to Keselowski by .006 seconds. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who got into the race by winning the Sprint Showdown, charged through the field to win the fourth segment. Those efforts should be rewarded, which the new format fails to do.

With $1 million at stake, there needs to be an incentive for drivers to put it all on the line to win. The new format doesn't reward risk-takers, and in the process cheats fans out of the excitement they expect from NASCAR's best.

Deanna Engel, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

When NASCAR takes the pulse of the fan base, will it find people were pleased with the new All-Star format, or will it be making more changes for 2013?