SAXTON: NASCAR keeps searching for right All-Star race formula

As the engines fired, the lightbulbs buzzed – it was a first for the annual non-points extravaganza. Never before had an all-star race been run under the lights. Dubbed “One Hot Night,” the 1992 race signaled a new era, one that became tradition for the fan-favorite event.

And now, 25 years later, past meets present … as another new era begins with the first all-star race under the Monster Energy banner.

NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway recently announced the format for the 2017 Monster Energy All-Star Race, one that rewards winning, and incorporates a fascinating strategy component.

The format seems to change each year as NASCAR tries to return the event to the interest level amongst fans that it once enjoyed.

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The description given the event by NASCAR and Charlotte is not what I would describe. To me they continue to make NASCAR Cup racing more confusing, more difficult to understand and just tough to follow. Take a look at the format described below and let me know what you think.

The race format is as follows:

- The race will feature four stages totaling 70 laps, an ode to the 1992 edition of the same distance.

- The goal for all competitors: Earn a spot in the final 10-lap, 10-car stage.

- The winner of each of the first three stages will lock up a spot in the final stage, as long as they remain on the lead lap after the third stage.

- The cars with the best average finish in the first three stages will make up the remaining spots needed to fill the 10-car final stage.

- The remaining 10 cars will be lined up by average finish of the first three stages and given the option to pit. Exit off pit road determines starting order for final stage.

- The winner will be awarded $1,000,000.

Crew chief strategy has been at a premium throughout this season, and that won’t change in the all-star race thanks to a unique opportunity granted each team: a coveted set of softer tires. Each team will have one set of these tires available to use at their discretion. A softer tire provides the car with more grip and, thus, speed. In other words, it’s a game-changer. But there’s a catch: Teams that choose to put on their softer tires to start the final stage must start behind those that choose regular tires.

“The Monster Energy All-Star Race is designed to be fun for fans, showcasing the best drivers and race teams in NASCAR,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “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 for the main event, which returns to Friday night, will again include the wildly popular ‘no speed limit’ four-tire pit stop. Each team will have three timed laps, one of which will include a mandatory four-tire pit stop with no pit-road speed limits enforced. The five quickest teams will advance to the final round of qualifying to determine starting positions one through five. The team that completes the fastest stop will earn the Pit Crew Competition Award.

The Monster Energy Open will occur Saturday evening prior to the Monster Energy All-Star Race and will include three stages (20 laps, 20 laps, 10 laps). The winner of each stage will earn a spot in the all-star race. The Monster Energy Open field will be set by two rounds of traditional knock-out qualifying.

Those eligible for the Monster Energy All-Star Race include: drivers who won a point’s event in either 2016 or 2017; drivers who won a Monster Energy All-Star Race and compete full-time; and drivers who won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete fulltime. Those who have not already earned a spot via the above criteria can still lock-in by winning a stage in the Monster Energy Open or by winning the Fan Vote.

Drivers who have already clinched an all-star spot: Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

Maybe it is old age catching up to me but I think I prefer the excitement generated at a local weekly short track such as Bridgeport, New Egypt, Grandview or others. They offer good old fashioned action, wheel-to-wheel excitement without all the gimmicks.

FANS CAN WIN TICKETS TO DOVER COURTESY OF WNPV-AM1440 RADIO >> Here is a great opportunity to win tickets to see NASCAR racing at the Monster Mile! The Camping World Truck, Xfinity, and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be in Dover, Delaware, the week of Friday, June 2nd, through Sunday, June 4th. You can see the racing live courtesy of WNPV-AM 1440, and Dover International Speedway. All you have to do is go online to www.wnpv1440.com/dover and fill out the entry form. A random drawing among entries will determine four winners, who will receive two tickets each to the June 2nd Camping World Truck Series race, four winners, who will receive two tickets each to the June 3rd Xfinity Series race, and one winner, who will receive two tickets to the June 4th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. See the contest page on the WNPV-AM 1440 website for complete rules and ticket information. No purchase necessary. Entries must be received by 12:01AM, Monday, May 22, 2017.

And there will be a separate opportunity to win tickets when WNPV Radio’s Joe Moskal stops up at Grandview Speedway on May 13 and awards a pair of tickets to the Truck Series race ($76.00 value), a pair of tickets to the Xfinity Series race ($94.00 value) and two pairs of tickets to the June 4th Monster Energy Series race ($190.00 value per pair). That’s four lucky winners at a total value of $550.00 in tickets. We’ll keep you posted on the date. WNPV continues to be a huge supporter of the sport.