Opinion: Why the All-Star race hate is unfounded

Only in NASCAR can the sanctioning body provide the very thing fans and media have been clamoring for and still no one seems happy.

Opinion: Why the All-Star race hate is unfounded
Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford race winner
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota crash
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Start segment 1
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford race winner
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford race winner

Complaining – whether about wrecks, attendance or rules (both too many and not enough) – appears to be the new normal in this sport.

For years – and I stress years – fans, media and even drivers have complained about the lack of drama in the outcome of the sport’s annual All-Star race and its $1 million prize.

Saturday night’s rain-delayed event at Charlotte Motor Speedway provided an abundance of it – including something that has not happened since 2009 – a lead change in the final segment with two laps remaining.

In addition to the last-segment lead change, there was also some of the best racing seen on a 1.5-mile track since the new low downforce aero package debuted last summer at Kentucky Speedway.

Still, that was not enough.

The superb on-track product has been nearly lost in the criticism – much on social media (shocking I know) – over the format of the race and the results of the mess at the end of the first 50-lap segment which left several top drivers a lap down.

Why it went awry

Never mind that the format itself had nothing to do with what many are complaining about. It was teams’ willingness to test the limits of the format (never heard that before have we?) that caused the problem.

While 15 of the 20 teams completed their required green-flag pit stop, five teams elected to wait as long as possible. As four of the teams were on pit road, a caution came out for a wreck by Jamie McMurray.

Matt Kenseth had not yet pit and except for a few lucky teams that un-lapped themselves on new tires before the caution, many teams remained caught a lap down. There was no wavearound available to help, thus leaving many top teams in a mess before the second segment began.

This of course became a tragedy of epic proportions – with the team and fans of every driver negatively affected by the issue immediately complaining of the format and the “confusion” of the race.

It was better than previous formats

No one bothers to remember that for the last two years we asked fans to figure out the average finish of drivers in the first four segments to determine which ones would enter pit road in the final segment.

Somehow, this was more confusing. At least no calculator was required.

The best complaints are by those who say NASCAR keeps changing the rules every year. Care to guess why NASCAR changed the rules to begin with – like the first time and every time since then? That’s right, fan and competitor complaints.

Saturday night’s All-Star race was the most entertaining in years but the willingness of everyone to find fault in anything will surely overshadow it.

And by the way, since when did anything other than the result matter in NASCAR?

Everyone talks about the big fight in the 1979 Daytona 500 and no one bothers to mention how lackluster the race on the track was with Donnie Allison dominating most of it.

Social media erupts like a volcano when a race ends under caution these days but no one criticizes the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s lone Daytona 500 victory even though it came in a race that ended under caution.

NASCAR makes way too many rules unless Tony Stewart rips them for safety over not requiring five tight lug nuts on wheels (while his crew chief bothers to put only four on the wheels in Stewart’s first race back).

Criticism is easy, easier these days than ever before.

In the words of American writer and lecturer Dale Carnegie, “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn – and most fools do.”

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