2021 NASCAR All-Star Race Review – Which Tracks Could Host the Event in the Future?
Kyle Larson held off Brad Keselowski over the final 10 laps to win the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway. Larson restarted on the outside of the second row for the final restart, but managed to get to leader Chase Elliott’s outside.
While the two were side-by-side, Keselowski went underneath them and nearly made a three-wide pass for the win. However, Keselowski didn’t move up in front of Larson, giving Larson the run on the outside to pass Keselowski for what turned out to be the win.
Texas Motor Speedway hosted the All-Star Race for the first time. If you ask the fans, it will also be the last time.
I take a look at the race and whether Texas Motor Speedway was the right track, and assess some possible alternatives for the future.
Was Texas Motor Speedway the Right Choice?
There were a few issues with this track. For starters, it was extremely hard to pass. It seemed like the only passing was on the restarts. Once we got three or four laps into a run, there was limited passing, especially for the lead.
The All-Star Race should be a no-holds bargain race. There are no points on the line so drivers should be getting aggressive. But how can you be aggressive when you can’t make a pass?
It really is unfortunate because Texas Motor Speedway used to be one of the more exciting tracks. You could run any lane of the track and make passes.
Since they repaved it in 2017, it’s been a single groove track. NASCAR applies a traction compound called PJ1 that should give drivers more grip so they can run in lanes other than the bottom.
We saw multiple times during Sunday’s race a car would get a run on the inside, but he wouldn’t be able to complete the pass because everyone else was running in the PJ1 in the middle lane. At that point, having track position almost matters more than having a great car.
If you didn’t make up spots on the restart, you probably weren’t going anywhere.
With the lackluster racing at Texas Motor Speedway, I think I speak for every fan when I say one year is enough. It’s time to move the All-Star Race to another track.
Let’s examine five tracks that could host the All-Star Race in the future.
Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted the championship race for the NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Camping World Truck Series from 2002-2019. The track produced thrilling championship battles for years before Phoenix Raceway took over as the host.
In terms of on-track racing, Homestead-Miami Speedway produces far better racing than Phoenix Raceway, but we know how things go these days. It’s more about money than anything.
Homestead-Miami Speedway is one of the more exciting 1.5-mile tracks. Drivers have the ability to run the bottom, middle, or top of the track. It’s really not that hard to pass.
We’ve seen some exciting finishes at Homestead-Miami Speedway over the years. From Greg Biffle beating Mark Martin in a photo finish to Tony Stewart beating Carl Edwards in the closest championship battle ever.
And who can forget Carl Edwards getting turned into the inside wall while battling Joey Logano for the championship. It led to Jimmie Johnson winning his record-tying seventh championship in 2016.
We took away a monumental race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Let’s give them one back by letting them host the All-Star Race.
Darlington Raceway may be the most iconic racetrack on the circuit. The track has been hosting races since 1950.
The Southern 500 is right up there with the Daytona 500 as the most famed race. The Southern 500 ran on Labor Day weekend every year from 1950-2003. The race moved back to Labor Day weekend in 2015.
Since 2015, Darlington Raceway has hosted “throwback weekend.” Just about every car runs a special throwback paint scheme.
The track isn’t your typical 1.366-mile oval. It is sort of egg-shaped. It’s a wider turn 1 and 2, while turns 3 and 4 are narrow and allow for more braking. It can be a very tough track to manage because the turns and straightaways are different lengths.
A tough track like this is perfect for NASCAR’s best to show off their talent. The “Lady in Black” isn’t for the faint of heart.
Darlington Raceway produced the closest finish in NASCAR history, with Ricky Craven beating Kurt Busch by 0.002 seconds. Just last year, we saw leaders Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott hit the wall while battling for the win.
Those battles came in points races. Imagine what it’ll be like when there’s $1 million on the line.
Charlotte Motor Speedway
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted the All-Star Race from 1987-2019. It was always a special event with NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, the following week at the same track.
Most of the drivers and crews reside in the Charlotte, NC area. This allows their families to attend the race without having to travel. It’s a special event for not just the drivers.
Charlotte Motor Speedway has a similar 1.5-mile layout to Texas Motor Speedway. But unlike Texas Motor Speedway, you can actually pass at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In the last All-Star Race there in 2019, we saw Kyle Larson go from sixth to first in one lap thanks to a push from Kevin Harvick. That’s not something you can do at a one-groove track like Texas Motor Speedway.
In the Open, a race that allows drivers to qualify for the All-Star Race, we’ve seen multiple last-lap passes and side-by-side finishes to get into the big race.
I know it’s nice to switch things up, but after two years of lackluster All-Star races, I think it’s time to go back to Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Over the last few years, Las Vegas Motor Speedway has taken the crown of the best 1.5-mile track on the schedule. The track produces a ton of two and three-wide racing, especially on the restarts.
The All-Star Race typically comprises of short 15-30 lap stages. The racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway usually stays competitive for the first 20 laps or so of a run.
The field can get a bit strung out after that. but with the All-Star Race being a short race, we wouldn’t have to worry about that.
The reason the cars stay so close together on short runs is the draft. We rarely see drafting be a factor outside of Daytona or Talladega, but it can play a factor at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It’s also a track that can employ strategy. In this year’s All-Star Race, everyone knew track position was more important than fresh tires, so the drivers rarely pitted. At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the strategy can go either way.
In the Spring race here, we saw Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski pit early in Stage 3. They restarted outside the top 15, and made it into the top five within five laps.
Larson won that race because he had the best car, but other drivers stayed ahead of Keselowski in that run, despite having older tires.
This could be fun. A lot of drivers already drive Martinsville Speedway like they have nothing to lose. Imagine how they’ll drive when they literally have nothing to lose.
The 0.526-mile short track is the oldest track in NASCAR. The first race held at Martinsville Speedway was all the way back in 1948. They installed lights at the track just a few years ago, making it an even more desirable option to host the All-Star Race.
Now, Martinsville Speedway is basically a one-groove track. You can pass in the middle lane, but it’s pretty difficult. I know, I’ve been preaching against one-groove tracks this whole article, but this isn’t the same one-groove as Texas Motor Speedway.
With this being a short track, the cars don’t get stretched out as much. Therefore, the racing stays competitive throughout. Considering the bottom lane is the way to pass, drivers can get impatient while running behind a slower driver. It usually leads to a bump and run.
Like I said, this happens in points races. I can almost guarantee there will be more aggression in the All-Star Race.
We’ve seen multiple post-race altercations lately at Martinsville Speedway. Matt Kenseth vs Joey Logano, Chase Elliott vs Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. vs Joey Logano, and Denny Hamlin vs Joey Logano.
The Future of the NASAR All-Star Race
I’m not sure what the future holds when it comes to hosting the All-Star Race, but I hope it’s not Texas Motor Speedway. When the only passing opportunities are on restarts, you know there’s an issue.
I’d be okay with any of the choices that I mentioned. Whether one track takes over every year, like we saw with Charlotte Motor Speedway, or they do a rotation.
Personally, I think it’d be cool to see a rotation. That way, we can truly find out which track will produce the best racing.