There is no question whether the feel surrounding the Sprint All-Star Race is the same as it was years ago. With every format change, schedule adjustment, and new aspect brought to the race, the race no longer produces pure excitement. An All-Star event should be nothing but electrifying, so how can NASCAR bring back the thrill? Examine the race’s past.
2005 was an impressionable year for me as a race fan. It was the first season in which I followed the sport and I definitely soaked in every detail from every race that year.
The NEXTEL All-Star Challenge (now Sprint All-Star Race) that year was one of the most exhilarating races I have ever witnessed.
The night started with quite the bang in the NEXTEL Open (now Sprint Showdown) as a last lap spin to win sparked emotions. At that time, only the winner of the opening race made it to the feature.
When Brian Vickers was running second to Mike Bliss coming off turn 4 on the last lap, he needed to get the No. 0 of Bliss out of the way. Bliss ended up spinning through the grass while Vickers was celebrating his spot in the main event.
Has that kind of excitement been paralleled in the past few Showdowns? I can’t remember anything coming close. This indicates change is needed.
In addition to the 2005 Open being stellar, driver introductions was a show of its own. Drivers and teams would come out and wave their hands in the air to celebrate being in the event with the fans. Ryan Newman’s No. 12 crew had the most fun as they were diving into the crowd and using a few water guns.
Introductions also featured the fan vote being revealed. Anticipation had been building ever since the Open finished as many were eager to figure out who the fans voted into the event.
This was in the pre-social media era so there was no knowing ahead of time who that driver would be. That year, it turned out to be Martin Truex Jr. in the Dale Earnhardt Inc. No. 1 car.
As of late, I feel that the excitement in the All-Star Race hasn’t come until the big race started. In 2005, the night was still young and spectacular racing had already been witnessed.
The infamous Joe Nemechek and Kevin Harvick scuffle highlighted the race in 2005. A large wreck triggered by Tony Stewart making contact with Nemechek on the frontstretch took out a good portion of the field.
Harvick and Nemechek exchanged a few words and threw some objects following the incident. Drivers’ emotion playing a role like that is something that has been absent as of late and it is one aspect that used to be a fixture on All-Star Saturday Night.
What happened to this kind of All-Star Race? Where drivers put everything on the line and weren’t afraid of any consequences. Where there is a non-stop thrill ride from the first green flag of the night until the final checkered flag flies.
The 2005 event is an example of how special the race was prior to yearly format changes that didn’t add much and left most confused. Some say they no longer watch the race due what it has become. It is time to change that.
Reverting the All-Star Race back to how it was in its past will only make the event better. Its time for NASCAR to make changes before the novelty of the race is lost as a whole.
By Jason Schultz
(Note: I am not saying change everything back to how it was in 2005. I just suggest NASCAR look at making major changes.)