OLD ‘WINSTON’ ALL-STAR RACE WAS BETTER

I have never been a fan of gimmick races. Any event with planned stops, mid-race inversions or draws, and timed breaks does not appeal to me. And here comes NASCAR’s Cup Series All Star race, heavy on segments and conditions.

Much like I wrote about my preference to the original Busch Clash, I carry that opinion on to the current All Star race.

The inaugural "The Winston," named after series sponsor RJ Tobacco, took place as part of the Charlotte 600 weekend in 1985. The green flag waved shortly after Saturday’s 300-mile Sportsman series race. And the format was as simple as the race has been.


The race winners from the previous year were in a contest all their own. The champion would have the pole and the remaining lineup was determined by race wins by date. The distance was 70 laps, or 105 miles, just beyond a fuel run. A mid race tire change was required. And that was about it.

At the time I wasn’t even fond of the tire change rule. With the race being longer than a full tank of fuel could carry anyone a pit stop was inevitable. Why tell anyone what to do? All teams had to pit, so in my opinion, let them come up with their own strategy.

Any race with pre-determined stoppages take away from the excitement, speaking as a fan. This covers late model racing, professional leagues, and the new fuel break added to the Knoxville Nationals. All events should run straight to their conclusion and let the racing play out. If a race has to be stopped for refueling then the distance is too long.

Atlanta Motor Speedway played host to this race in 1986 under a similar format, but the first time the race was dedicated to its own weekend. The race returned to Charlotte in 1987 and the segments were first introduced. This was the first 10-lap final shootout year. And the segments and procedural changes have been coming ever since. Rarely have two years had the exact same race procedure.

The tweaking has brought us to 2010 where it seems the race format borders on confusion. A note card is required to remember how the race will be run.

Four segments of 50, 20, 20, and 10 laps will be contested. A four-tire pit stop will be required during the first segment. A 10-minute break will occur after segment three. And everyone will make a pace lap prior to the final segment, the pits will be opened, and the field will make another stop to determine the lineup for the final 10-lap segment.

A pit crew contest is held during the week to determine the order of pit selection. Qualifying runs contain three laps with a pit stop. And eligible drivers consist of past champions, past All Star race winners, and points race winners from the last two seasons.

Times have changed since 1985. Everyone’s personal taste will determine if it is for the better. Adding more twists and conditions don’t necessarily make for a better race.

I prefer an old-school approach. The only three mandatory flags should be a green, a white, and a checkered. Whatever happens in between is up to fate. I will defer to an old racing expression, “Drop the rag and let’s race.”

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