It seems like every week since the NASCAR Cup Series resumed racing after being shut down by the COVID-19 virus that we are seeing something take place for the first time.
This week the trend will continue and we will not have to wait until the weekend to experience it. The NASCAR All-Star Race will be held for the first time ever on a short track and on a Wednesday night. Bristol Motor Speedway will host to the 36th running of the event and in the process will join Charlotte and Atlanta as the only tracks to ever host the race.
Charlotte has had all but the exclusive rights to the event over the years as the only time leading up to this year’s race that it has not been held at the North Carolina track was in 1986 when the race was moved to Atlanta. Charlotte was originally slated to hold the race again this season but as the state continued to struggle with surging cases of the virus it was not given the green light by state and local health officials to hold the event.
The All-Star race is unique to the schedule that it does not award any points only a million dollar check to the winner which allows for teams and drivers to push the envelope more than usual.
This year’s edition should be one of the best as racing at Bristol under the lights always produces plenty of fireworks on the track and with the outcome of the race having no bearing on where a driver sets in the standings, it could be all the ingredients needed to produce one of the most competitive and hard fought race in years.
NASCAR through the years has always tweaked the race and this year will be no different as for the first time the sanctioning body will be introducing a “choose rule” that allows a driver to choose which lane they line up in for restarts.
This will be an option for drivers to use instead of being locked in to a lane according to where they come off pit road. Every track has a preferred lane to restart and this Wednesday night will be no different. The race will be divided into four stages consisting of 55 laps, 35 laps, 35 laps and 15 laps.
Both green and yellow flag laps will count in the first three stages with only green flag laps counting in the final 15 lap sprint to the checkered flag.
The same overtime rules that are used at every stop on the schedule will also be used with no limit on how many attempts it will take to get a green, white, checkered flag finish under green flag conditions.
Rookie Cole Custer’s win on Sunday at Kentucky clinched his spot in the starting field for Wednesday night as he now joins fifteen fellow drivers who were already locked in by either winning a race in either the 2019 or 2020 season. Previous All-Star Race winners and former Cup Series champions also earn an automatic spot in the starting field.
The NASCAR Open will be held immediately before the All-Star Race and it will be the last opportunity for three drivers to transfer into the main event of the night. The Open will consist of three stages with the winner of the first two stages and the race winner earning a spot in the field.
One final driver will be added to the field by being the winner of the All-Star Fan Vote. It’s not the way that the NASCAR wanted to have to move the race from Charlotte but it will be a great opportunity for another track to show what it can do for the event.
In many ways it will be like an audition for moving the All-Star race to other tracks on future schedules but it could be once the smoke clears after the checkered flag waves on Wednesday that Bristol has made a strong case for bringing it back next year.