ThatsRacin

New format for NASCAR All-Star Race is announced. Is it genius, or just gimmicks?

Joey Logano, center, celebrates with crew members their victory in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race in 2016 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Changes to the format for the 2017 race were announced Tuesday.
Joey Logano, center, celebrates with crew members their victory in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race in 2016 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Changes to the format for the 2017 race were announced Tuesday. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Motor Speedway announced a new format for May’s NASCAR All-Star Race at the track. And following the theme for NASCAR rules changes in 2017, the drama relies on gimmicks.

The May 20 race at the 1.5-mile track will be contested in four stages, of 20, 20, 20 and 10 laps.

The three winners of the 20-lap stages, as long as they’re still on the lead lap after the third stage, are locked into the final 10-lap sprint, which will only include 10 drivers. And after those three phases, there will be drama based on ... math.

The seven drivers who join the three stage winners in the final stage will be decided by the average finish in the first three phases, which means unless you’re really good at dividing by three you’ll have little to no idea who’s in until the field is announced at the track.

Once the 10 drivers eligible for the final stage are announced, there will be drama based on ... pit stops.

Pit road will open for an optional stop, and the order of the drivers exiting pit road will determine the starting order for the final stage, which offers a $1 million prize.

But wait, there’s more drama, this time based on ... tires.

Each driver will receive one full set of softer, and thus faster, tires to be used at some point in the four stages.

If they need them in an earlier stage to qualify (which they would know if they’re really good at math), they can put those faster tires on without penalty. But if they wait for the final stage, they must go to the back of the field for the final restart, behind all the cars with regular tires.

From there, it’s a straightforward race to the $1 million prize.

Qualifying, a three-lap run with no speed limit on pit road, returns to Friday night, with the Open, a last-chance qualifying race, moving back to Saturday. That qualifying race will be run in stages of 20, 20 and 10 laps, with each stage winner advancing to the all-star race. Another driver will advance via fan vote.

Tickets for the all-star race, which is set for an earlier, 8:20 p.m. start, or the Coca-Cola 600 on May 28 are available by calling 704-455-3267.

NASCAR All-Star qualifiers

Drivers who have already clinched a spot in the May 20 NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

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