NASCAR is headed to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, but it’s taking a break from its traditional points races that count toward the regular season championship and playoff standings.
Instead, Texas will host the 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race — a fun and generally fast mid-season exhibition event with a large purse (but more on that later).
Compared with previous All-Star Races, this year’s event got a bit of a makeover, from the format to the host track. And between the changes and the various ways drivers are able to qualify for the exhibition race, it’s a lot to keep track of.
So here’s a breakdown of seven key things to know about the 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race.
The basics: When is the 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race?
Date: Sunday, June 13
Time: 8 p.m. ET. TV: FS1
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
When is qualifying? 6 p.m. ET, Sunday, June 13, but more on that later…
A new format for the 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race
In April, NASCAR announced its new format for the 2021 All-Star Race, and it left fans beyond confused (likely because it’s unnecessarily confusing). So here’s our attempt to simplify it as much as possible.
The race will be 100 laps divided into six rounds.
Rounds 1 through 4 will be 15 laps each, Round 5 will be 30 laps and Round 6 finishes with a 10-lap shootout.
Only green-flag laps will count toward the lap total.
There is a mandatory, four-tire pit stop during Round 5.
Sounds simple enough, but that’s only the beginning because the order drivers will restart in at the beginning of new rounds varies.
The Round 1 starting lineup was determined with a random draw.
For Round 2, the field will be inverted with a random draw, starting anywhere between eighth and 12th.
For Round 3, the entire field will be inverted.
For Round 4, the field will be inverted with a random draw, again starting anywhere between eighth and 12th.
The Round 5 starting lineup will be determined based on drivers’ cumulative finishes through the first four rounds. The driver with the best cumulative finish will start first, while the driver with the worst cumulative finish will start last. If there is a need for a tiebreaker, it will be determined in this order: Most All-Star Race wins, most career Cup Series race wins and then current driver standings.
For Round 6, the starting order will be set based on drivers’ finishing positions in Round 5.
Per NASCAR, this is the description of the rules package for the 2021 All-Star Race:
The rules configuration for the All-Star Race will use the high-downforce aerodynamics package at the 1.5-mile track, but engines will use a tapered spacer reduced from 59/64th of an inch to 57/64th. That setup is currently used on superspeedways, where horsepower targets are in the 500-510 range.
What is the prize for winning NASCAR's All-Star Race?
Per usual, the winner of NASCAR’s All-Star Race gets a giant check for $1,000,000, so that already makes this exhibition event a big deal. But in addition to the check, the winner also gets this three-foot tall, 100-pound piston-style trophy.
And for that mandatory, four-tire pit stop during Round 5, the fastest team will earn a $100,000 reward.
Is every NASCAR driver eligible for the All-Star Race?
No, not every NASCAR Cup Series driver is eligible for the All-Star Race. And there are a few different ways drivers can qualify.
Drivers are eligible for the exhibition event if they won a points race in 2020 or 2021, won a previous All-Star Race and are current full-time drivers or won a NASCAR Cup Series championship and are current full-time drivers.
Through one of these avenues, 17 drivers have already locked themselves into the 2021 All-Star Race. Those already qualified are:
Christopher Bell, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota; Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Team Penske Ford; Alex Bowman, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet; Kurt Busch, No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota; William Byron, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet; Cole Custer, No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford; Austin Dillon, No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet; Chase Elliott, No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet; Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota; Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford; Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Team Penske Ford; Kyle Larson, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet; Joey Logano, No. 22 Team Penske Ford; Michael McDowell, No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford; Ryan Newman, No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford; Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Drivers can also race their way into the NASCAR All-Star Race (or get voted in)
Being a NASCAR Cup Series race winner or champion aren’t the only ways drivers can qualify for the All-Star Race. They can also drive their way in during the NASCAR All-Star Open, which is set for Sunday at 6 p.m. ET right before the main event.
The All-Star Open will be broken into three segments — 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps — and the starting lineup was determined based on team owner points.
The winners of the first two segments, along with the first-place finisher in the Open itself, will advance to the All-Star Race.
But if drivers can’t get in any of those ways, there’s still one more option. Leading up to the All-Star weekend, fans were able to vote for their favorite driver.
So the remaining spot for the All-Star Race will go to the driver with the highest tally in the fan vote who is not otherwise eligible for a total of 21 drivers this year. But that won’t be announced until after the NASCAR All-Star Open.
Bubba Wallace, No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota; Daniel Suárez, No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet; Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford; Erik Jones, No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet; Ross Chastain, No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; Chase Briscoe, No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford; Tyler Reddick, No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet; Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet.
What active NASCAR drivers have previously won the All-Star Race?
Eight drivers currently still racing full-time in NASCAR have won the All-Star Race before: Ryan Newman: 2002; Kevin Harvick: 2007, 2018; Kurt Busch: 2010; Denny Hamlin: 2015; Joey Logano: 2016; Kyle Busch: 2017; Kyle Larson: 2019; Chase Elliott: 2020.
As you can see, Harvick is the only active driver to have won the All-Star Race more than once, and he’s in a four-way tie for third-most wins with Mark Martin, Terry Labonte and Davey Allison.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jeff Gordon are the only two driver to win the race three times, and Jimmie Johnson — who recently retired from full-time NASCAR racing before joining the NTT IndyCar Series as a part-time driver — is at the top of the list with a record four All-Star Race victories.
Brief history of NASCAR All-Star Race tracks
Since the All-Star Race’s inaugural event in 1985, nearly every race has been at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 1.5-mile track in the heart of NASCAR country hosted the race in 1985 and from 1987 through 2019.
The 1986 NASCAR All-Star Race was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway (then known as Atlanta International Raceway), and, as a result of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bristol Motor Speedway hosted the 2020 All-Star Race.
And now, the exhibition event is off to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2021 NASCAR-All-Star Race: Key things to know about Texas event