(Above: Matt Kenseth pits at the 2008 Sprint All-Star race. Photo by Ford Racing/Flickr.)
NASCAR might be the one major sport with an all-star weekend that is actually enjoyable. The Pro Bowl, where defense is optional, is a joke. The interminable Major League Baseball All-Star game is so boring it once ended in a tie. The NBA All-Star game has less drama than a pickup game at the Y. (The NBA Draft is more exciting.) Only NASCAR gets it. It has created an all-star format both the drivers and fans enjoy.
ESPN.com reports that the Sprint All-Star race format has been tweaked to add a 10-lap shootout for $1 million. According to David Newton, “Instead of four 25-lap segments, there will be four segments run in increments of 50, 20, 20 and 10 laps to celebrate the event’s 25th anniversary May 16 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. A mandatory four-tire, green-flag pit stop will be held in the first segment after Lap 25. There will be an optional stop between the first and second segments, as well as between the third and fourth. A 10-minute break is scheduled between the third and fourth segments to allow teams to adjust the cars before the no-holds-barred, 10-lap shootout for $1 million.”
Imagine if the NBA All-Star game took a 10-minute break between the third and fourth quarter and the league told its players, “Each member of the winning team will receive $1 million. There will be no timeouts this quarter. Go play.” For ultra-competitive guys like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, it might not make a difference. For the guys who have been coasting on defense for three quarters, now they have incentive to ball.
NASCAR has tinkered with the race since 1985. It has made some mistakes, but it also has taken chances, something other leagues have failed to do in their quest to produce nap-worthy television.
As proof I give you the thrill, the majesty and the mystique of the NFL Pro Bowl Skills Challenge. Try to contain your excitement.
(Enjoy what you just read? To read about the role preparation plays in winning a NASCAR race, click here. To read about life in a small NASCAR shop, click here. To read about the pit row of the NASCAR universe – Mooresville, N.C. – click here. And to watch the cartoon about a stock-car-racing family that I wrote for, click here.)