As I sat and watched the Sprint All-Star Race last Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, two things really jumped out at me.
First, while it was a pretty good show overall, NASCAR still needs to do a little tweaking to the All-Star race format. Second, Kyle Busch is one tough, smart racecar driver, and it was good to see him back on the track.
The format NASCAR used for the race won by Denny Hamlin was four 25-lap segments followed by one 10-lap shootout with a driver’s average finishing position from the four 25-lap segments determining their starting position for the 10-lap dash for the cash. It was an interesting idea, and it produced some decent racing, but I don’t think NASCAR was totally happy with it.
I know they are looking at it, and it will be interesting to see what they come up with for next year’s race, and they will come up with something because if there’s one thing you can always say about NASCAR it’s that they don’t hesitate to make any changes they think will make the show better.
I tell people all the time that the winner is immaterial to them. Out of the 20 drivers who started the race the other night, they didn’t care who won. They didn’t have a preference. The put people putting the race on, NASCAR or the Charlotte Motor Speedway or whoever, don’t have a preference who wins. They just want to put on a good show and they want the people on the edge of their seats.
From where I sat Saturday night, it seemed to me they’ve got to figure some way to generate more interest in the preliminary segments and not just from the fans but from the drivers as well. As it was, a driver could still Cadillac along in the early segments and just ride the thing out until the last segment and still have shot to win.
So maybe they should make the average finish of the first two segments determine the starting position in the third segment and then take the top 5 from the third segment and invert them to start the fourth segment or something like that. Or they could really reach back to stock car racing’s roots and do some of the things we used to do on short tracks all across the Southeast.
The best race along those lines that we used to run was called a black-flag race. They took the top 10 cars and they started the race and on certain designated laps the last man in the field on each of those laps got black flagged and you kept eliminating drivers and racing until you had a winner. We really put on some good shows that way because we were racing all throughout the field. I mean you were trying to win the race, but at the back if you came around last you didn’t want to be embarrassed and get black flagged so you raced for that, too.
We ran those a lot in my super modified days, and one year I won just about everyone of them but one so I really enjoyed them.
Another thing that makes it difficult is the size of the field It is really hard because they’ve put more people in it now. They used to start 10 or maybe 12. Now we’ve got 20 and the way the cars are today, to start 20th makes it hard to come to the front.
When you get a field of that many cars strung out three quarters of the way around the racetrack, it’s not very good. You have to have those bunches of four and five at a time racing for position, and out of all the race the other night we had it two times that I remember. So maybe that’s an area they need to take a look at as well.
As for Kyle Busch, I don’t care if you like him or not, you cannot question the man’s love of racing or his desire to get back in a racecar.
I was in wreck Charlotte in 1981 where I got busted up probably as bad as Kyle did. I know what he’s been through. I know how hard he’s had to work. I know how remarkable it is for him to make it back this quickly.
I went to see him before the race but I didn’t get down to the truck early enough because I was signing autographs. I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated his effort to get back in the race car and let him know my feelings because I think it’s tremendous that he worked that hard to get himself back in shape to get in that racecar.
I think he also made an excellent decision choosing to come back for a race that really doesn’t mean anything. That was really, really good thinking and I’m sure Kyle had a lot to do with that. Now you may not like him, but you can’t deny he’s a pretty smart fellow and a helluva racecar driver, and his showing the other night proves it.
He’s got a pretty big hurdle ahead of him. He’s got to withstand that little thing in the back of his mind telling him how bad that leg hurts. But he’s also on a mission. He wants to get in the Sprint Chase for the Championship, and I won’t be surprised to see Kyle win a race or races before the year is out.
A real test will come for him this weekend in the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s traditional longest race of the year, and it’s one the things I am looking forward to in what I think is really going to be a good race.