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The All-Star Race: NASCAR's Beta Test Platform

Since its inception, the NASCAR All-Star Race has been the perfect testing ground for new rules and procedures, some of which have drastically altered the weekly NASCAR experience.


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If you're looking for a glimpse into NASCAR's future, history suggests looking no further than the NASCAR All-Star Race.

Throughout the years, the sanctioning body has been known to treat the $1-million-to-win exhibition event as a beta test of sorts, putting potential new rules, procedures, and even aero packages on display before making a firm decision.

The showcase of stars will have its place on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule for the foreseeable future, as it provides a second non-points event among the 36-race points-paying schedule -- a must to maintain a 38-week broadcast schedule.

If nothing else, the event is consistent in providing NASCAR with the chance to promote some of its biggest stars. And, if from time to time, a curveball is thrown the way of the teams, then so be it.

Plus, with the relocation of the All-Star Race to North Wilkesboro Speedway in 2023, the event itself provides nostalgia and a flashback to what some may consider 'the glory days' of NASCAR.

Multiple Tire Compounds:

For NASCAR's second All-Star weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway, the sanctioning body will be rolling out two different tire compounds -- or three, if you count the wet weather tires -- to create more opportunities to pass via tire management and strategy.

The 'Prime' tires, which will feature the traditional yellow Goodyear lettering, were developed during a tire test earlier this season at the newly repaved 0.625-mile short track.

However, the 'Option' tires, which will display the red Goodyear lettering, are a little bit different, with the tire manufacturer saying they have taken the wet weather chemical compound and placed it onto slick tires, rather than treaded ones.

That tire is designed to be softer, meaning it will produce a quicker overall lap time at the beginning of the run, but will wear much quicker than Goodyear's baseline tire.

NASCAR will force teams to start on the option tires, but after the 200-lap contest gets underway, the strategy is in the hands of the teams and drivers, with a mandatory four-tire pit stop at the race’s midway point, and another chance to change tires at a Lap 150 competition caution.

This isn't the first time that NASCAR has tried doing something with multiple tire compounds in the All-Star Race, though.

NASCAR trialed this concept for the first time in 2017, creating an option tire for the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which officials from Goodyear expected to be significantly quicker than its traditional tire compound.

Things didn’t go as intended, though, as there wasn’t enough of a difference in speed between the ‘Option’ and ‘Prime’ tires.

At the current moment, there doesn't appear to be any urgency for NASCAR to start bringing multiple tire compounds to each NASCAR Cup Series event. This experiment is more for Goodyear, who works with NASCAR to try and bring a tire that will help to improve the NextGen car's unideal performance on short tracks.

Double-File Restarts:

In the current day and age of NASCAR, the double-file restart, seen multiple times during each NASCAR National Series event, is taken for granted. While it has been a part of the status quo for 15 years now, it wasn't always that way, not until an interesting announcement that came before the 2009 NASCAR All-Star Race.

The format sees lead-lap cars advance to the front of the pack -- while the lapped cars retreat to the tail-end of the line -- and upon getting the one-to-go signal, they line up in a side-by-side formation.

NASCAR's beta test of the double-file restart procedure was met with incredibly positive feedback after the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, so much so, that it took just three weeks for NASCAR to overhaul their restart procedures in favor of the double-file restart.

“We’ve heard the fans loud and clear: ‘double-file restarts – shootout style’ is coming to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series,” Brian France, then-chairman and CEO of NASCAR said in June 2009. “This addition to the race format is good for competition and good for the fans.”

As far as lane choice is concerned, things are slightly more complicated in the present, now that the "choose rule" is in effect, a rule allowing everybody to choose their lane, which would be tested 11 years after the double-file restart.

The Choose Rule:

For several years, the 'choose rule' has been utilized at the grassroots level across the United States, allowing drivers to choose whether they will be starting on the inside or outside lane for a restart when the field is being bunched up and re-racked to continue the race.

In 2020, NASCAR decided to embrace its short track roots and give it a shot, implementing the 'Choose V' for the NASCAR All-Star Race, which that season, was taking place at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The rule itself is designed to add an element of choice into the restart process, as previously, the driver was forced to start in the lane that corresponded with their running position. Now, there's an added element of strategy, where drivers must choose between losing spots in the preferred lane, or gaining spots and having to fight back into line immediately following a restart.

And, as a more specific application to NASCAR, the rule helps to mitigate any potentially dangerous games being played on pit road, where drivers would previously hit the brakes to line themselves up in the preferred lane based on the position they exited pit road.

After the All-Star trial run, the 'Choose V' was met with positive feedback from drivers and fans, causing NASCAR to take the lead and implement the rule on all tracks except for the road courses and superspeedways in the Summer of 2020.

However, by the start of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series campaign, the choose rule had been approved for use on both superspeedways and road courses, too.

That was far from the only thing that was beta-tested during that NASCAR All-Star Race, either...

Number Placement:

In different forms of motorsport across the world, there are several different guidelines about where the car number is to be placed on a racecar. But, throughout NASCAR's 75-year history, the number was always placed on the center of the door.

So, when the idea of moving the numbers closer to the rear quarter panel on the cars came to light, NASCAR's fanbase was divided into two parts: the people who hated it, and the people who hated it even more.

But, at the request of some organizations, NASCAR gave it a try anyway, in... you guessed it, the 2020 NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, with the notion that it would provide the team's primary sponsors with a bigger area to display their branding, thus making a bigger difference on television and from the grandstands.

After the race, people continued to be up in arms about the one-race experiment, which would become a major talking point over the next 18 months, as NASCAR and the teams dug into the benefits of moving the car number from its traditional position.

The Race Team Alliance (RTA) is said to have ordered a Nielsen study about the potential value of moving the number, as well, with results showing that there would be an increase in value if the number was moved forwards or backward, but that the traditional position was the least valuable.

So, NASCAR went against the grain of public opinion, and upon the debut of the seventh-generation car in 2022, NASCAR elected to bring that experiment from the 2020 All-Star Race into law, mandating that NASCAR Cup Series teams must move their car numbers forward into a contingency-area position -- where they've stayed ever since.

PS: Shoutout to the underglow, which also debuted during the 2020 All-Star Race, but in the four years since hasn't ever been attempted -- or even talked about -- again. Though, while it looked cool, it served no purpose whatsoever.

Aerodynamic Package:

From one unpopular decision to another...

During the 2010s, NASCAR was no stranger to making in-season changes to the aerodynamic packages used by the NASCAR Cup Series, something that was done on multiple occasions to test a new idea and improve the on-track product.

In 2018, the NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the site of the most aggressive swing at a package change. For the non-points event, teams would run a restrictor plate (to cut horsepower by about 250), front-end aero ducts, and a six-inch spoiler with a six-inch ear on both sides.

That package, previously utilized at Indianapolis, Michigan, and Pocono in the NASCAR Xfinity Series was designed to keep drivers close together on the racetrack, like a superspeedway, while maintaining the integrity of the intermediate tracks.

Upon a successful debut in the All-Star Race, NASCAR continued to work on the specifics, before announcing later in the year that a modified version would be utilized in 2019, which featured 550 horsepower and an eight-inch rear spoiler.

Thus, the beginnings of the NA18D package.

That aero package, in some form, was utilized in the NASCAR Cup Series for the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons, until the implementation of NASCAR's seventh-generation racecar in 2022, where horsepower was notched up to 670 based on the results of several tests on intermediate tracks.

However, when the NASCAR All-Star Race came back around to Charlotte in 2019, the sanctioning body took the opportunity to continue tweaking the package, adding a single-piece carbon fiber splitter and a hood-mounted radiator duct.


Originally branded as 'The Winston', the NASCAR All-Star Race has had a great deal of influence on the NASCAR Cup Series as we know it, and more likely than not, has led to some amazing moments in the history of NASCAR.

...and those are just the beta tests that we've pinpointed. One could argue that stage racing could be a loose interpretation of the bizarre, segmented format that often changed in the NASCAR All-Star Race.

So, the next time NASCAR implements some new procedure change in the NASCAR All-Star Race, whether it be a new aero package, restart procedure, or some other change that can't be foreseen at the current moment, take a moment and digest it -- because there's a good chance you'll see it again.

Photo Credit: Sean Gardner, Getty Images

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