The White Zone: NASCAR, what was that All-Star Race?

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Five hundred feet.

Ryan Blaney was roughly 500 feet from taking the checkered flag, Sunday, at Texas Motor Speedway, when the caution flew for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hitting the wall in Turn 2. Unlike a normal race weekend, the All-Star Race must finish under green.

Even by NASCAR standards, this edition of the All-Star Race was a farce.

The White Zone: NASCAR, what was that All-Star Race?

Only in NASCAR

FORT WORTH, Texas – MAY 22: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Crunchy Cookie Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on May 22, 2022, in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

A caution on the final lap when Blaney was just a few hundred yards from the finish line, alone, is peak NASCAR.

To NASCAR’s credit, it admitted after the race that the caution was “premature.”

OK, it was a blown call by the officials. It’s annoying, but it happens. With live sports, you’ll get it wrong, sometimes. I get it. Furthermore, I respect Scott Miller, senior vice-president of competition, for owning up to it.

What about the window net?

Compounding the officiating mistakes, however, is that NASCAR didn’t black flag Blaney for not having his window net secured. Which the tower “saw him struggling to get it back up.”

“You can clearly see both hands on the wheel warming the tires,” Miller said. “The window net was up. No way for us to know if he got it 100% latched or not. And at that point in time, no way we can be certain that he didn’t get it latched.”

FYI: Here’s what the NASCAR rulebook says on window nets.

Section G, which got cut off in this embed, says the following: “All window net fasteners must be properly tightened and remain tight during an Event.”

So Miller, speaking on behalf of NASCAR, admitted that the officials weren’t sure Blaney’s window net was “properly tightened.”

“So there’s no way we can call him down pit road, at that time,” he added.

Except NASCAR calls drivers down pit road all the time to replace required items, like a transponder. So what’s this nonsense about “no way” it could call Blaney down pit road?

I hate to get into “what if” scenarios, but what if on that final restart, another car ramped up the driver’s side of Blaney’s car, with a window net that Miller said the tower wasn’t 100% sure was secured? A blown call would be the least controversial event of Sunday!

And reminder, this happened in the same All-Star Race where Ross Chastain ramped up the driver’s side of Kyle Busch‘s car.

 

FORT WORTH, Texas – MAY 22: Ross Chastain, driver of the #1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet, spins after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on May 22, 2022, in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Of course, all of this is a byproduct of convoluted rules and gimmicks that don’t improve the quality of the racing. Aside from the aforementioned Chastain wreck, none of this happens, if these stupid rules aren’t in place.

It speaks to a much larger problem: The All-Star Race, itself.

The White Zone: NASCAR, what was that All-Star Race?

One lame night

FORT WORTH, Texas – MAY 22: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Wrangler Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on May 22, 2022, in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Once  a marquee event that stood out from the 36-race grind of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, the All-Star Race is now an overblown parody of itself.

With groan-worthy gimmicks and convoluted rules that the NASCAR media corp openly admits to not bothering to learn, combined with running it at Texas Motor Speedway, arguably the most maligned track on the schedule, this once fun event now elicits dread at the thought of sitting through it.

And this is not a new sentiment. We in the media have been saying this about the All-Star Race for over a decade now!

Yet nothing improves.

Compare this to The Clash in February. There was a buzz and level of excitement and energy that I’ve not seen in years! NASCAR took an exhibition race that grew stale in Daytona and gave it new life at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

It’s time NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports, Inc. do the same with the All-Star Race.

What to do

Stop taking it to tracks the Cup Series already races at and move it around to unique venues that otherwise wouldn’t meet the standards of a points-paying Cup Series race.

Like North Wilkesboro! You want a guaranteed sellout, Marcus Smith? Take a race from Texas Motor Speedway and return it to the track from which it got it.

Poetic justice at its finest.

Do with it what we did with The Clash

Hell, take a page from The Clash and run it at unorthodox venues, like college football stadiums. Take it to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, and not just because it’d be a home game for me. This gives college-age students, a massively important demographic, a front row seat to the world of NASCAR.

Imagine it: The cars and haulers set up shop in the student parking lot, next to the McClung Museum and across the street from Stokely Hall, where most of the athletes live. Also across the street from the Humanities and Social Sciences Building, where drivers can interact with fans at the Toyota Volunteer Village.

When it’s time to turn laps, the drivers strap in and pull onto Lake Loudon Boulevard, turn right onto Volunteer Boulevard, take another right and drive down Peyton Manning Pass, left on Phillip Fulmer Way, passing the statue of General Robert Neyland, then down through the tunnel of Gate 21 and inside one of the great cathedrals of college football!

And throw in a drive through the T, while we’re at it.

Embed from Getty Images

Hell, since it follows basically the same route, we can incorporate The Vol Walk with the rumbling of cars!

Embed from Getty Images

The best part is that you can swap out these traditions, based on the university and location. So even if you’re not a die-hard Tennessee Volunteers fan, like I am, building the event around the great pre-game traditions of the local university brings a level of excitement and buzz that’s lacking with the All-Star Race, right now.

But if we’re just planning to stay the course and keep the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway, like I suspect will happen, then just kill the damn thing and give these teams an actual off week.

The White Zone: NASCAR, what was that All-Star Race?

In conclusion

At the end of the day, the All-Star Race is a husk of its former glory that slogs and moans like a zombie. It desperately needs an overhaul to regain its former glory.

And for a track that desperately needed a good race, Sunday’s offering at Texas should embarrass NASCAR and SMI.

That’s my view, for what it’s worth.

TOP IMAGE: Sean Gardner/Getty Images