Joey Logano won, Kyle Larson lost (again), and it was all just a little bit of a mess; but whether you liked it or not, you have to admit that NASCAR All-Star weekend was anything but boring. Here are our five things from the weekend of million-dollar racing in Charlotte:
1. The All-Star format was a huge bust: No, we’re not forging into uncharted territory with this opinion, but it was such a fiasco that it has to be tops on the list this week. If you listened to the show, then you already know Scotty and I thought the dizzying combination of segments, mandatory green-flag pit stops, and field inversion was setting the stage for disaster – and just about anything that could go wrong Saturday night, did. Instead of re-hashing everything you’ve read on other websites, we’ll save you some time (and me some mind-numbing explanation) by deferring to Dale Earnhart, Jr., who said after the race, “I think the simpler we make it, the easier it is to follow. You just have to worry about rooting for your guy.” Green flag…checkered flag…throw some racing in between – that’s all us fans want.
2. The racing/aero package looked really good: Setting aside the rules, the end of the race was really, really good. NASCAR’s revised aero package (especially eliminating rear skew) presented the drivers with a situation where they had to take the car to the edge without just leaning on extra right-side downforce, assured by the fact that the guy behind would have a tough time passing. We saw a great example of the end result in the closing laps – Larson shot out to the lead, but Logano was able to chase him down, then the two raced side-by-side without upsetting the air on the other’s car. The only reason Larson shot up into the wall with two to go is because he drove into the corner too hard, and that is the idea with these low downforce schemes – a driver that can manage the tires and not overdrive can move up, but if you try too hard it is easy to make a mistake. This will likely be lost in the craziness of the weekend, but the ‘experimental’ aero package from the All-Star race should be full-time.
3. The Sprint Showdown was better than the All-Star Race: Now that was a format that had some merit. Don’t get us wrong – it was still gimmicky – but at least it worked and was easy to understand…well, it was easy for the fans to understand, not so much the guys in the FOX booth. They completely missed Trevor Bayne’s insanely close victory over Chase Elliott in the first segment, because they weren’t paying attention to the fact that it was lap 20 as they crossed the start-finish line. Elliott and Larson put on an even better performance at the end of the Showdown with their fender-banging drag-race to the line. Everyone raced hard, and it was easy to figure out what was going on – so if we hit NASCAR for the All-Star format, it is only fair to congratulate them for the Showdown.
4. How much will Tony Stewart get fined? Not that he cares, which makes it even more fun when he voices his opinion. And, boy, did he voice his opinion after his early exit Saturday night:
“I’m as baffled as everybody. I don’t know how in the hell we were scored a lap down, after they stopped the 20 car and they pit everybody together, lap down and lead lap and lap down. It’s the most screwed up All-Star Race I’ve ever been a part of. I‘m glad it’s the last one….I’m okay, I’m just madder than hell because I don’t understand how in the hell they’ve officiated this whole thing from start to finish.”
This is just like the lug-nut thing – lots of people were thinking it, Tony just had the guts to say it in a way nobody will forget it…including NASCAR. And just like the lug-nut thing – Tony shouldn’t be fined for what he said, but don’t be surprised if he does.
5. Kyle Larson has had the best – and also the worst – two weeks: Larson appeared understandably devastated after losing last Sunday at Dover, and then again in the All-Star race this week. And how can you blame the kid? After all, it isn’t like he had bad luck (a-la Martin Truex, Jr.), he just simply got beat in both races. But on the flip side, Larson has struggled for both success and any semblance of consistency for the past season-and-a-half, and now in back-to-back weeks has looked stronger than he ever has in a Cup car. If he keeps racing like this, he will win a race. So one one hand it has been horrible, but on the other, amazing…I wouldn’t want to be his shrink right now. But if I were, I’d just show him Stewart’s tweet after the race:
I think they should give out MVP’s to the driver that puts on the best performance at the All Star race. @KyleLarsonRacin gets my vote!
— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) May 22, 2016
Next Week – the same thing, just a lot longer, and without all the crazy-confusing rules: The Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte!