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Wake us when it's over

Focus on season prep dilutes All-Star race intrigue

Posted: Tuesday May 15, 2007 12:55PM; Updated: Tuesday May 15, 2007 1:52PM
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In recent years, drivers and teams seem more interesetd in preparing for the next race as they are in winning the All-Star race.
In recent years, drivers and teams seem more interesetd in preparing for the next race as they are in winning the All-Star race.
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR
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For good and for bad, NASCAR, in the minds of many, has gone out of its way to mimic the NFL's success. While that has led to some unprecedented gains in popularity, the two also share in one area of disappointment : All-Star events that frequently fail to live up to expectations.

Ironically, both the NFL and NASCAR have had their showcase exhibitions in the same place for more than 20 years: The NFL in Hawaii and NASCAR's in Charlotte. However, with that stagnancy in location has come criticism that the All-Star events these cities represent frequently become meaningless, more about show than actual substance.

Well, for NASCAR, it's time for that mentality to change, and the best way to do that is to propose a solution as unpopular for the teams as it is practical for the fans watching at home. It's time for the race to leave Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Don't get me wrong; when I was a kid, having the All-Star race at NASCAR's premier 1.5-mile facility produced exactly the type of finishes that would hook an impressionable youngster into watching the sport every week.

Forget Daytona or Bristol, Charlotte used to be the place where you saw some of the most exciting finishes of the year. Who can forget Davey Allison spinning across the finish line in '92, winning the All-Star race sideways as Kyle Petty sent him hard into the outside wall? Or the race in '95 that saw legends Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip crash each other in the final laps, opening the door for a young man named Jeff Gordon to burst onto the scene and win his first All-Star competition at 23.

In recent years, though, the race simply has lost its luster. The track itself has struggled since a "levigation" and subsequent repaving in 2005 have left drivers scrambling to find a second groove at a facility that used to have three or four. Add in the dreaded "aero push" that seems to affect racing at intermediate tracks, and it's no wonder the side-by-side racing fans crave at an All-Star race has been increasingly rare.

Additionally, the power and pressure of the Chase has seeped into the race. Even though no points are handed out during the event, more and more teams now use it as a test session for the Coca-Cola 600 the following week. It's easy to see why: when you have a race at the same track looming in seven days, there's an uneasy balance of trying to give it your all while gathering as much information as possible for when you really need to lay it on the line.

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