With every All-Star Race, there's chatter about changing up the format and/or location of the race. 2014 is no different, especially after Jimmie Johnson has won the last two in dominating fashion.
The format of the race has been tweaked a lot. It isn't sacred. The location? Well, it has been sacred. Since its inception, the race has always been held at Charlotte Motor Speedway save for 1986 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Charlotte is home base for most teams, so that's an added benefit. But if you follow NASCAR at all, you know that a 1.5 mile track like Charlotte isn't the most conducive for close, side-by-side racing.
It's why switching location of the race has started to dominate that chatter. Should the race go to Bristol? Martinsville? Richmond? Opinions vary, but if there's a consensus, it'd be that the race should go to a short track.
Matt Kenseth likes the idea of moving the All-Star Race, but he suggests none of the three tracks mentioned above.
“Here’s what my idea for the All-Star race has always been – this might not be popular, but I thought of this a couple year ago. I think the All-Star race should move every year and I think it should go to a track that we don’t currently race at, but is equipped to have a NASCAR race. I think it should go to Iowa and Milwaukee and St. Louis and Pikes Peak and maybe even Memphis – you have to have enough grandstands. I think it should move around and go to tracks like that – I think that would be great for all those markets that don’t have a NASCAR race. I think you would sell them out whether that’s 30,000 or 40,000 people, whatever that is. I think the racing would be good and it’s not a points race. I think that would expose a lot of fans to our product live that don’t get to see it now and I think it would be fun.”
Kenseth's on to something here. NASCAR doesn't need the money from attendance at an All-Star Race. It can afford to host it at a track that doesn't seat 80,000 or more people and not even notice it on the overall bottom line. Butts in the seats isn't an issue.
NASCAR is looking for new fans, too. And what better opportunity to get people who may not be normally able to get to a race than to move it to a different market? With potentially good or surprising racing in store at a track where the Cup Series doesn't normally race at, you not only can win over fans who are at the race, but those tuning in to see what the heck NASCAR is all about.
Nothing against Johnson's dominance, but a 10-lap runaway isn't the best way to convince people your sport is awesome.
Plus, it'd be a goodwill gesture to many fans who think NASCAR has "lost its way" or left the racing "back in the day" behind. There wasn't a bad review around of the Truck Series race at Eldora in 2013. There's little reason to think it wouldn't be the same for a race at Memphis, or, say, Gateway, which produced some great Nationwide and Truck Series racing.
But we're also going to be realistic; Kenseth's idea probably isn't going to happen. SMI, the company that owns Charlotte, won't want to let the All-Star Race leave. It owns Bristol, so if the race departs Charlotte, it could satisfy the short track wailing by moving to Bristol.
We appreciate the originality, however. The more logical and reasoned options for the All-Star Race, the better. Because if it's another ho-hum race Saturday night, the cries for changes are only going to intensify before the Coca-Cola 600.
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