Burton: Think big but go small -- It’s time to move the All-Star Race to its hard racing roots
The All-Star Race should be unique and offer something different from the rest of the schedule.
So next year, let’s make it one hell of a race. A knock-down, drag-out short-track show unlike any other.
We’re going to South Boston Speedway.
Or any relevant short track within a day’s drive of the Charlotte area.
This will add a new measure of excitement to the All-Star Race. It’s good for the overall health of the sport while restoring its grass-roots passion as well.
I’ve watched teenagers in Late Models put on amazing shows at these short tracks.
Imagine if race fans had the chance to see Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick at a three-eighths of a mile oval. Imagine a one-day show in which the pole-sitter spins a wheel from 1 to 12 after qualifying, and that determines the starting spot. Imagine if a $1 million prize was posted at a track that’s smaller than anything on the Cup circuit.
The cars will have too much horsepower, and that’s awesome.
They will weigh too much, and that’s awesome.
They will be sideways trying to get the rear tires to hook up, and that’s awesome.
The restarts simply will be fabulous.
When you can put drivers in situations where they really can get aggressive, how is that possibly wrong?
We would be delivering what the fans say they want: Hard racing, drivers working their guts out, and racing with something big on the line.
Drivers are doing all that now at Charlotte, but it’s hard to see some of those things at a 1.5-mile track.
You don’t need to improve the race by changing the format. You can do it by changing the venue.
A place like South Boston will challenge all the drivers and teams with a race that will be completely different than what you see the following week even though the rules are the same.
There will be no crazy formats. The reason those are needed is the racetrack, and a smaller racetrack helps eliminate the need for those rules to ensure good racing while embracing the history of the sport.
As a native, I’m naturally partial to South Boston, Virginia. But you could put the All-Star Race at a different short track every year, creating a process in which tracks lobby to hold the race. This would be great for some small-town economies but more importantly it would be great for the enthusiasm about the Cup Series.
The longtime fans who like the racing at North Wilkesboro Speedway again – this is a way to honor those traditions.
Bring in temporary grandstands to seat about 10,000 fans. This would create an incredibly difficult ticket to get, and that would help bring more excitement and enthusiasm for the fans to be there.
It’d be like the successful Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora, except this would be 10 times what you see there because it’s Cup.
It would bring big names to places like South Boston Speedway – imagine Virginia native Rick Hendrick entering the gates there. Or Chad Knaus, a future Hall of Fame crew chief.
It’ll be fun to watch and fun to do for the teams as a one-day show. Practice for a little more than hour, line them up and go. Drive to the track on Saturday morning and head home by midnight.
If there’s a downside to this idea, it’s one less event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a track that’s just down the road from my house that I love.
But Speedway Motorsports Inc. executives Bruton and Marcus Smith would understand this concept. They have shown the utmost commitment to embracing NASCAR’s lower levels by running the K&N and Modified series at their tracks. They have promoted the youth of our sport.
I believe if Bruton and Marcus Smith looked at what’s best for the sport, they wouldn’t like to give any race up, but they gladly would participate because they have NASCAR’s best interests in mind.
They understand as well as anyone that if the fans are excited about the All-Star Race, that will make them more excited the next week to buy tickets for the Coca-Cola 600. The All-Star Race has historical significance at Charlotte. You generally don’t want to disturb tradition, but if you can help the overall health of the sport, you do that.
I understand that to some this idea is absolutely nuts but step back and consider the potential.
Taking today’s big-time drivers, teams and modern race cars to tracks that helped build the sport from the ground up. Embracing the hard-core fan and the roots of the sport and rewarding them.
This is no gimmick. It’s joining the past and the present to enhance the future.
A unique event and a unique facility producing the one thing that everyone wants, one damn good All Star race unlike any other.