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Drivers mull ways to make Unlimited, All-Star Race more ‘prestigious’

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 21: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, is introduced prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 21, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — How can NASCAR make the Sprint All-Star Race and the Sprint Unlimited more prestigious and interesting for fans?

Drivers mulled that during Thursday night’s Sprint Cup Drivers Council meeting, Denny Hamlin said.

The answer could be limiting the field for both races.

“Trying to make it as prestigious as it probably used to be,’’ Hamlin said Friday of the goal for both races. “It expanded over the last few years, the Unlimited especially, and even our All-Star event. It’s over half the field, not really that prestigious. We’d like to get some of that back. If you tighten up how you get in, maybe these guys will keep that in the back of their mind when going for a pole and they’ll go for it.

“You can tighten it up by making it a certain way to get in. The fan vote and all that stuff is cool, but it’s also gimmicky and gets a lot of people in versus making it the true race winners or pole winners.’’

The Sprint Unlimited, held the week before the Daytona 500, and Sprint All-Star Race, run the weekend before the Coca-Cola 600, will have new names next year with the series getting a new title sponsor.

That provides a good chance for NASCAR to consider changes to both events, which have lost prestige.

This year’s Sprint Unlimited had 25 cars. The exhibition race was open to 2015 pole winners, former event winners, former Daytona 500 winners and all 16 drivers who competed in the previous year’s Chase. Any remaining open spots were filled based on driver points from the previous year.

The Sprint All-Star Race had 20 cars. It is open to drivers who have won a race in the current or preceding year, past series champions, and past All-Star winners. The field also had three cars from the Sprint Showdown advance along with two fan vote winners.

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