The All-Star Race is supposed to be one of the best events of the year. A Saturday night at Charlotte where the best names in the sport battle for a chance at a million dollars. However, in recent years this star-studded spectacle has become a snoozefest. The 2015 edition featured no cautions, almost no passing, and an uneventful battle for the finish, as Denny Hamlin won by over a second. Drivers such as 2nd place Kevin Harvick blamed the new rules package, which makes passing very difficult. However, the problems with the All-Star Race didn’t begin this year–they’ve been around for over a decade, and Nascar hasn’t come close to fixing them.
While all-star games in other sports, such as the NBA and the NFL have over 10 million viewers, Nascar’s All-Star races struggle to break 3. Part of this is simply the nature of the sport. In the NFL, the only time you see the best of the best on the field together, the only time you can see Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, and Odell Beckham on the same field is during the Pro Bowl. In Nascar, we see the best drivers on the same track every single Sunday–by including the 20 best racers, all the All-Star Race does is eliminate the backmarkers in the bottom half of the field. Cutting the field more, to 15 or even 10 drivers, would help increase interest by making the race feel more special and less like a normal Saturday night.
The main draw of the All-Star Race is the million-dollar prize. However, in a day and age where drivers routinely earn $5 million in annual winnings and match that in endorsements, a million bucks doesn’t mean what it used to. Nascar needs to increase the prize money–awarding 2 million dollars for a win and 5 million for sweeping the race segments would create better, more spirited racing. Nascar needs to bring back elements of the old All-Star Races as well–inverting the field and introducing eliminations would make for a much more exciting race.