Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fixing The NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge

It’s time to spice up the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge.

Other than an overly contrived format consisting of four 20-lap segments – which served no purpose Saturday night, other than to pause the program just when things were beginning to heat up – there’s nothing special about NASCAR’s version of the All-Star Game. It’s the same drivers, in the same cars, driving for the same teams, utilizing the same rulebook on a track the series visits three times each season. There’s nothing new or exciting there.

Aside from a devilishly clever qualifying system that makes pitcrews a part of the process, there’s nothing to distinguish the NASCAR Nextel All Star Challenge from any other event on NASCAR’s already overcrowded schedule.

I’ve got a plan to change all that.

Under the Moody System, NASCAR’s All-Star Race will be open ONLY to drivers who won a race the previous year, the Nextel Cup champion, and the Raybestos Rookie of the Year. No washed-up champions from a decade ago, no rickety former All-Star winners, and no drivers who qualified by having someone else win a race in the car they now drive. And no, we will not be allowing the fans to vote a driver into the field. Kenny Wallace, Kyle Petty and Martin Truex, Jr. earned the Fans’ Choice spots in each of the past three seasons, proving that fans have a limited grasp on the term “All-Star.” The fan vote has become little more than a popularity contest, and it has no place under the Moody System.

The preliminary event -- The Nextel Open -- will consist solely of drivers who won a pole the previous season, but are not otherwise qualified for the main event. We’ll draw for starting position, throw the green flag, and 50 laps later, the winner goes to the All-Star Challenge.

With apologies to Humpy Wheeler and Bruton Smith, we’re taking the All-Stars on the road in 2008, to tracks that otherwise don’t get to see Nextel Cup racing. We’re going to Iowa Speedway -- an absolute state-of-the-art showplace. Next year, book your tickets to Nashville, where NASCAR will tap into the energy that flows through Music City USA. Kentucky? No thanks. Jerry Carroll and his cohorts threw themselves off the Moody Gravy Train by trying to sue their way onto the Nextel Cup schedule. Excluding them from the All-Star party is our petty, vindictive way of showing them who’s really in charge.

Now comes the real fun.

The rules for the 2008 NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge will be… shall we say… relaxed over what we've grown used to. In fact, the only rule in the book will be that teams must run a legal, NASCAR Nextel Cup Car Of Tomorrow chassis, with no tweaks, no changes and no modifications. Aside from that, there are no rules.

Drop a 700 cubic inch powerplant under the hood if you like. Add fuel injection, a blower, anything your heart desires. Swap out a bunch of bolt-on parts to lower the ride height to ¾ of an inch, strap on a set of supermodified rubber, then bolt a wing to the roof, World Of Outlaws style. Plumb it with nitrous, crank-in 80% left-side weight, hop the driver up on Red Bull and turn him loose for what promises to be the wildest 100-lap All-Star Extravaganza in the history of motorsports. We'll have no “competition cautions,” no segments and no inversions. Just 100 laps of balls-on-the-dashboard, white-knuckled fun.

I’d buy a ticket to see that, and I’ll bet you would, too.

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