With recent articles talking about sagging attendance at NASCAR races and an oversaturation of races in the racing market, it got me thinking about the two exhibition races that are run each year. They are the Budweiser Shootout and Sprint All-Star Race. For these two races there are no points awarded out, just running for pride, trophy, and money. The overall question is what would be more beneficial, two extra weeks off or to continue running these special races.
Race: Budweiser Shootout
Debut: 1979 as the Busch Clash
Original way to qualify: Win a pole the previous season
Current way to qualify: Meet one of these criteria – qualified for the Chase of the Cup in the previous year, be a past Sprint Cup champion, past winner of a Budweiser Shootout, former winner of any points race at Daytona, or have won rookie of the year honors in the last ten years.
It’s a good test for teams a week before the Daytona 500 to see where they’re at.
Most teams will have separate cars for each race, but will give them more of that valuable track time.
In the same sprit new driver and team combinations have the ability to race and get acclimated with each other without negative point repercussions.
As one of the first events of the year it gets the excitement building for the new season. Then they’ve put it under the lights which adds to the excitement.
Originally was a celebration of drivers who won a pole the previous year. After Coors Light bought the pole award naming rights that tie in was eliminated. Now qualification makes it seem as if they want a full 43 car field. Then with some of these weird qualifications, drivers who I will term undeserving can qualify. These include Kevin “Freakin’” Conway (2010 rookie of the year hijacker), Derrike Cope (1990 Daytona 500 winner), Geoffrey Bodine (1984 Daytona 500 winner), Greg Sacks (1985 Firecracker 400 winner), and future qualifier Andy Lally (2011 rookie of the year). This is just a small sampling of drivers who either have not raced in the Sprint Cup Series in years or won rookie of the year because no one else ran against them.
Typically is very boring, especially in the early days when only 15 or so cars participated. It’s restrictor plate racing, so you need that big pack for it to provide anything for the fans. I know drivers will cringe with that, but it’s unfortunately the truth when it comes to the plate tracks.
It’s raced the weekend before anything really happens on track when it comes to races. Daytona is not fun to watch cars practice because that racing is best watched in packs (fan’s view) as opposed to practice runs. You’re time there is Shootout on Saturday, qualifying for the top two positions (aka watching paint dry) is Sunday, then you’ve got Monday through Wednesday to kill before you FINALLY get more racing Thursday.
Get rid of the event. It is time for the Shootout to go away and here’s why. The race itself has missed its mark on why it was created. You add to that as a fan, I went to Daytona in 2002, but when I did that I went before the Thursday qualifier races, thus totally by passing the Shootout itself. Costs that weekend (again 2002 so I can only imagine they’re tripled since then) we very high because you had to pay for each race individually, there was no group ticket. If I did it again, I’d still save my cash on the Shootout because after that you have many “empty” days at the track, and again the race is pretty boring. Add to it the attempt to add more cars by adopting requirements because they know they need more just dilutes my appeal of the race. This doesn’t necessary accomplish saving of a weekend for drivers, but for teams it’s less wear and tear on their cars and no need to bring a Shootout specific car.
Race: Sprint All-Star Race
Debut: 1985 as The Winston
Original way to qualify: Win a race the previous or current season (flipped between drivers only, then drivers and owners, then back to drivers) or race your way in via open race for drivers not qualified.
Current way to qualify: Meet one of these criteria – be a past Sprint Cup Series champion, be a past Sprint All-Star race winner, be a 2010/2011 race winner, finish 1st or 2nd in Sprint Showdown, or be voted in via a fan vote.
There have been many classic moments in this race that resonates in the history of NASCAR:
- 1987 we had the horribly inaccurately named “pass in the grass” when Dale Earnhardt cut off Bill Elliott.
- 1989 we saw Rusty Wallace dump Darrell Waltrip with three laps to go for the win and igniting a crew fight.
- 1992 you have the classic race, from atmosphere to a great finish. “One Hot Night” was the first race under the lights for a non-short track. The finish featured Kyle Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Davey Allison battling on the last lap, and ended when Petty spun Allison coming to the checkers, Allison won but celebrated from a hospital bed that night.
- 1995 saw Dale Earnhardt debuted a special paint scheme, a silver car, which set the trend for special paint jobs to be used in the race. Honorable second to Earnhardt’s 1995 car is the 1997 car of Jeff Gordon that featured Jurassic Park on it.
- 1996 Michael Waltrip won the race after being the last to transfer from the open race, procedure was changed right away to prevent this from happening again.
- 2000 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s win with his father is another special moment we have especially since we all know what happened the next year.
- 2001 NASCAR proved the cars cannot run in rain, as most of the field crashed during the green flag. NASCAR allowed teams to go to back up cars and tried it again. Oops!
The concept of a winners only event is again a great idea, pit the best of the best versus each other with nothing on the line but cash and pride.
Now that they’ve coordinated it around the NASCAR Hall of Fame celebration and the Camping World Truck Series race, makes it a worthy fan experience if you have two weeks to spend in the Charlotte area.
Rules on the event constantly change year after year to add “excitement” to the race. Race distance is added, then subtracted, then added again. Segments range from three, then to two, then back to three, we didn’t like it so let’s go to four, wait that was too much, back to three.
Adding the fan vote was a bad idea because again we’re rewarding an undeserving driver. This should be a winner’s only event. This goes right to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. if he’s not good enough to race his way in, then he shouldn’t be in the event. I can see it now, a driver finishes 15th in the Showdown and yet is in the main event. I wonder if they’d still try to vote him in if he wrecks in the open.
While innovative, Earnhardt’s 1995 scheme helped usher in an era where special paint jobs are done on a near weekly basis, thus loosing the luster of them. When it was first done, it was like “wow this is something different and special,” added that appeal to the race. Now it’s not even a novelty, it’s just another race.
The race isn’t even shown on a major network, but Speed Channel. While Speed does a good job, but if Fox can’t part with showing COPS and America’s Most Wanted for this race, why am I going to watch it then?
The fact that my highlights in the good section essentially end at 2001, and even that’s not a very good note. They’ve raced it since then just nothing really of note has happened, I saw shouts out to Kasey Kahne in 2008 for winning the fan vote than the race. But I got nothing, all the races blend together and nothing really happened. Minus Kyle Busch threatening to kill Denny Hamlin last year, which was funny because if Busch could find him he would have slapped his so hard.
Keep the event. Shocker, right? I say that if they just take a few suggestions with the race. They are make the rules and that’s the rules, don’t tweak them each year, let’s have some consistency for once in our lives. We go classic rules, 1992 style that is 30-30-10 lap formatting, again LESS IS MORE when it comes to this. The event for 2011 is 100 laps now, and to me that’s just crazy because the trend will be 334 before you know it. Remove the fan vote, because as you see every week with the Pizza Hut fan vote for pit crews, it’s ALWAYS Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Allowing the fans a voice is great, but they don’t always know what they’re doing. Overall, now that they’ve incorporated the Hall of Fame inductions and a truck race for a fan it is worth going down for that extra weekend to attend the race.
The always useful stock car history book
Fielden, Greg. Forty Years Of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era 1972-1989. 5th ed. Vol. 4. Surfside Beach: Galfield, 1997. 627-641. Print.
Wikipedia page for the All-Star race and it’s history found here
Wikipedia page for the 2011 All-Star race found here
A count down of the top 10 All-Star race mements found here
A listting of how someone qualifies for the Shootout, read it you might qualify! Found here