Charlotte Motor Speedway President and General Manager Marcus Smith announced a new format for this year's NASCAR Sprint All Stat Race to be held at the track on May 21, adding a new twist to the final dash to the finish and a shot at the $1millon dollar purse.
This year's format will feature a random draw for mandatory pit stops before the final segment that will put cars with older tires at the head of the field behind as many as 11 cars behind charging through the field on fresh rubber.
Lots of passing in the final segment – guaranteed. At least, that's the plan.
"The drivers don't all agree on the perfect strategy, which means some drivers will be fighting on race-worn tires to stay up front at the end, while others will be charging through the field on new tires after the final pit stop," said Marcus Smith. "At the end of the final shootout, one driver will have a million reasons why '13' is a lucky number."
This year's all-star race will feature three segments – two 50-lap segments, and a final 13-lap shootout to determine who will take home the million-dollar prize.
Like previous years, the 2016 edition of the all-star race will feature race winners from the 2015 and 2016 as well as past NASCAR champions, plus the segment winners of the Sprint Showdown and one lucky driver voted in by the fans.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]The first 50-lap segment will include a mandatory green flag pit stop for a least two tires, followed by a five-minute break at the end of the segment will another mandatory two-tire stop. The starting lineup for the second segment will be determined by the order they exit pit road.
The second-lap segment will also feature a mandatory green-flag two-tire stop before lap 85, with another break before the start of the final segment.
The new wrinkle in this year's format will be a random draw to determent the number of cars that must make a mandatory four-tire stop before the start of the final 13-lap segment. A total of 9, 10 or 11 cars must pit, and will lineup behind the cars that didn't pit for the start of the last segment.
The strategy here: can the cars at the front on old tires hold off the cars behind them, running on fresh tires? At the same time, there should be a significant amount of passing going on in the finals laps, something that has been missing from the All Star Race in recent years, where it's usually the driver leading at the start of the final lap who takes the checkered flag.
Race organizers at Charlotte Motor Speedway sought out advice on how to improve the All Star Race from several drivers, most notably 2012 Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski.
"Someone reached out to me and asked me – what we could do to make the race the best possible, and I put a little bit of thought into it," Brad Keselowski said. "I know another group of drivers did as well, and we all kind of pitched in some ideas."
Among the ideas that Keselowski pitched was the number of laps in the final segment, a number he said had no evil intentions.
"It's not like some devil-worshiping thing, I can promise you that," said Keselowski. "When we looked at the number it would take for the driver to drive through the field in the scenarios that we played out, on average it was eight to 12 laps. If you make a mistake, it could take as much as 15 laps, so I think that's kind of where the number came from. (It) was trying to fit in between that 10-to-15-lap range, and that was a unique number that hit it and could generate some interest."
Charlotte Motor Speedway also announced some new changes for the Sprint Showdown – the last-chance qualifying race held the night before the All Star Race.
The Showdown will consist of three segments – two 20 laps segments and a final 10-lap segment – with the winner of each segment advancing to the All Star Race. The second and third segments will include a mandatory two-tire pit stop.
The final spot in the all-star field will be determined by a fan vote, with highest vote-getter from the pool of remaining drivers advancing.