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Sunday, May 20, 2012

NASCAR's new All-Star race format was a bust, encourages lazy driving

Before I get into my whole lecture on this weak new All-Star format, let me just say that I don’t blame the driver and team that won for doing what they did.

They were just following the smart strategy, and anyone who won the first segment would have done the same thing.

I also recognize that Jimmie Johnson most likely did have the best car on the track all night.

One big problem – the new format – four segments of 20 laps then the four winners get in line up front to pit before a final 10-lap penalty – encourages laziness.

Jimmie ran hard the first 20 laps, secured his position among those front four in the process – and then spent 60 laps doing nothing but hang in the back. So in essence, he only really raced for 30 out of the 90 laps in the All-Star race.

That’s weak with a capital W. Again, I know it’s not Jimmie’s fault that this is the format. But NACAR better not return with this format next year or fans will be very upset. I can understand guys hanging in the back at a long race at Talladega, but for this to happen in the All-Star race, which is supposed to be the most white-knuckled, give it your all race, is just disgusting.

Jimmie, bless his heart, gave a weak reply when asked about the strategy, trying to hint he actually did race all day:
“No, we were trying. We were working on our car. I was making sure I could get a couple good laps in and find the balance of the car. We were in heavy conversation about small adjustments, what we could do preparing for that final segment. nce we get through that and I catch the back, it was time to ride. That's no fun. My mind is running, Is the track changing. These guys are racing, are they getting stronger. I had to believe in the system. I really think whoever won that first segment would have done the same thing. It's just what you do when you can control the race like that. We took great advantage of it.,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus said something after the race that encapsulated how bad the new format was:
“he biggest thing you have to do in any event is you have to limit your risk. That's what we needed to do. We were fortunate, like Jimmie said, that he was able to get out there that first segment and attack and get the win. From that point on, all you want to do is maintain and make sure you're there at the end. That's what we wanted to do,” Knaus said.

Sorry Chad, but in an All-Star race, I don’t want drivers “limiting their risk”. I want them racing hard every lap. If they don’t have to, there’s a critical flaw in the entire concept of the race.
I’m sure I’m not alone, and you can bet there wil be changes next year if NASCAR listens to its fans at all. I don’t have the magic pill will the perfect recipe for a great All-Star race, but I know one thing – this type of competition-reducing format has got to go.

Kenseth restart woes give race to Jimmie

Continuing with the All-Star race theme, I recognize that I saw some great side-by-side racing among the drivers during the first four segments – in that sense it was a success. But the end turned into a snoozefest when Matt Kenseth couldn’t get going, and held up cars behind him in the process. This let Jimmie get far out front and say bye-bye.

“My restarts seemed to always look bad, but here especially, for some reason, that bottom lane would really restart hard and the outside would always spin. I was on the inside every other time and that outside pole guy would go two or three cars back,” Kenseth said. “I knew it was coming, but I honestly didn’t know what else to do. I thought I got in the gas early. Jimmie did the right thing. There was oil dry there, so he ran me up in the oil dry and I just couldn’t get any traction. I just couldn’t get going and then by the time I got in line I was fourth and with 10 laps you’re pretty much done.”

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