Five reasons NASCAR fans should love the Monster Energy All-Star Race
Not everyone feels the same way about the NASCAR All-Star Race, which is Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval.
Some fans love it, some hate it. Some travel to Charlotte specifically for it, some wish it would rotate around the country. Some say it's gimmicky and antiquated, some say they don't mix it up enough.
There's no denying probably everything in NASCAR could benefit from adjustments here and there, but needing improvements doesn't necessarily mean the current product is altogether bad.
In fact, NASCAR's All-Star Race, although it's an exhibition race, is one of the best events on the schedule. Not convinced? Here are five reasons why fans should actually love the All-Star Race.
1. Length and distance of the race
Kyle Busch celebrates after winning the 2017 NASCAR All-Star Race. (Jim Dedmon, USA TODAY Sports)
The 2019 All-Star Race is 85 laps, which is actually five laps longer than last season. But that's fine because that's not the point.
The All-Star Race is just shy of 130 miles and lasts about 90 minutes, give or take. That's perfect. The stages are more dramatic and exciting because they are obviously shorter than usual. And even though there's no playoff point waiting for the stage winner like other races, these guys are still ultra competitive and want to win no matter what. Everything is a shootout with the intensity up the whole time.
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But the biggest part of this – and stay with us here because it seems oh so obvious – a 90-minute race is not a three- or four-hour race.
In an age of dwindling attention spans as NASCAR's ratings remain inconsistent while attendance trends downward, shorter and more intense is better here. Fans don't have to have their entire Saturday night revolve around NASCAR, which is good for diehard fans who have other interests as well as in the attempt to attract newcomers. A 90-minute race is basically like watching an episode of Game of Thrones and carrying on with your life.
2. The racing is more aggressive
This is part of the intensity mentioned in the previous point. If drivers don't have a good start or restart position – or if they did but the laws of physics dropped them to the middle of the pack – they have far less time to make up for it. So they take risks, they make moves faster and they drive a little differently than they normally would. That is fun, and sometimes, it gets wild.
There's also $1 million on the line, which makes drivers even more zealous. But more on the money aspect later.
3. It's a night race!
NASCAR fans are vocal about a lot of things, and demanding more night races and short track races are among them. With the All-Star Race, fans get one of two. While the Monster Energy Open starts at 6 p.m. ET, the main event isn't until 8 p.m. The only race on the schedule that starts later is the second Duel at Daytona on the Thursday before the Daytona 500.
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The All-Star Race will start just as the sun is setting, and it will be fully dark by the time it ends. It's like an expedited version of the track conditions for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte the following week. Yes, it's way shorter than other races – see No. 1 – so fans don't get as much night racing as they want, but it's still dark out when that giant $1 million check is delivered.
4. We actually know the value of the prize money
Kevin Harvick holds up the $1 million check after winning the 2018 NASCAR All-Star Race. (USA TODAY Sports)
NASCAR stopped releasing the details of race purses in 2016, so we have no specific figure for how much money drivers are making off each race. Race winners' prize money definitely passed $1 million, based on the purse info from 2015. Joey Logano earned more than $18 million for winning the 2015 Daytona 500, and he also won the race with the least prize money that year at Watkins Glen at about $4.5 million.
But without that information now, we don't know what each NASCAR race is worth in 2019 – except for the All-Star Race. Plus, $1 million has a nice ring to it, even if these guys are professional athletes making way more than that every week.
5. The race provides a look into the future
Like in the past, NASCAR is testing out a new package for the 2019 All-Star Race that it could implement for the Generation-7 car, which is expected to debut in 2021. It tested a version of the current 2019 package at the All-Star Race last year, so it's reasonable to think the technical elements used Saturday could be incorporated in future racing.
Now, that's not to say these are or were all great ideas that will or did lead to outstanding racing. But fans have the opportunity to at least get an idea of what NASCAR is concocting.
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