Yesterday, NASCAR and Monster Energy announced the format changes for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. It is being called a tribute to the famous “One Hot Night” All-Star Race that took place 25 years ago. The event will be a 70-lap event that will have four total segments. Segment distances will break down into 20, 20, 20, and 10 laps. The final segment will be a ten-lap, ten-car shootout for $1,000,000! The ten cars that make the final are the three 20 lap stage winners and the seven drivers who had the best average finish over the first three stages.
However, the most interesting change to the All-Star format is the implementation of a coveted set of softer compound Goodyear Eagles! But there’s a catch: When you take the soft set of tires you have to restart behind every driver who selected the medium compound tires. This adds a strategy element that could change the outlook of the sport forever.
NASCAR often experiments with rules changes in the All-Star Race that they hope to implement in the future.
We saw it with last year’s aero changes that are now standard practice. The softer compound tires are no different. I think that NASCAR wants to introduce multiple compound tires to throw an extra stressor at the crew chiefs. How and when will it be best to use the differing compounds? In the All-Star Race, I don’t really expect to see anyone use the softer tires until the final segment. The risk is too great if you’re the only team to take the soft set. If it’s implemented full-time, I would expect that NASCAR would do away with the position loss aspect of the rules. I would also expect to see more than one set of soft tires, much like they do in Formula 1.
Formula 1 has used varying tire compounds for years. They have five differing compounds that all have different color sidewalls: ultra soft (purple), super soft (red), soft (yellow), mediums (white) and hard (orange). They also have two types of wet tires, but hopefully we won’t ever have to worry about stock cars in the rain. (Watch the Mid-Ohio Xfinity race from 2016 if you think stock cars in the rain is a good idea.) Each race, Formula 1 teams select three of the five compounds to bring to the track. The FIA then selects two sets of tires that must be used over the course of the race and the race teams are able to use strategy to determine the remaining sets that will be used during the race.
This may seem complicated on the surface, but once you see the use of multiple compounds on track it brings a new level of excitement. For instance, in last weeks F1 race in China, race leader, Lewis Hamilton was on a set of soft tires. He was discussing with his team whether or not he could make those tires last until the races conclusion. Many of his closest competitors had on super soft tires. There was no way they could make those tires last until the end of the race. The differing strategies created drama and intrigue for 20 laps that otherwise would have been relatively boring. In the end, all cars hit pit lane for fresh tires, but the point is the tire strategy made my viewing experience a little bit better.
Overall, I’m unsure how I feel about different tire compounds in NASCAR. I hope it will catch on. I hope it provides more passing and more strategy.
I think there is huge potential to enhance the racing on the track, but I will patiently wait until the All-Star Race to see how multiple compounds look on the track.
Regardless, I know one thing to be true. We are in for a treat! The All- Star Race is going to be something special this year. There are no gimmicky pit stop rules to add confusion, it’s just straight-up short segment racing with a million dollars on the line.
If you can’t get excited about that then you have no pulse.