When Charlotte Motor Speedway sent out its press release announcing the new format for the Sprint All-Star race in two weeks, Brad Keselowski was the only Sprint Cup driver mentioned by name.
Keselowski was also identified by Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the architect of how the 113-lap event will play out on NASCAR’s home track on May 21.
The Team Penske driver didn’t want to take full credit for the format, saying “another group of drivers” also had ideas when approached by the speedway, but told media Friday at Kansas Speedway the basis for how the format came to be.
“I just wanted to see the race (be) something that I would want to watch if I was a fan, and something that I would want to be proud of if I was the driver that won it,” Keselowski said. “Quite honestly, I didn’t feel like the formats of the past few years were that way.”
The highlight of the three-round format is a random draw after the second 50-lap round that will decide if nine, 10 or 11 cars will have to make a mandatory four-tire pit stop before lining up behind the remaining cars for the final 13 laps.
Keselowski said the Drivers Council came up with the idea of the random draw, which eliminates the prospect of a driver trying to “sandbag” because with the draw, “you won’t know where to sandbag to.”
“It’s not 1992 anymore,” Keselowski said, referring to the year of “One Hot Night”, arguably the most famous edition of what was formerly called The Winston. Keselowski touted the format as a way of combating advances in aerodynamics that have made passing more difficult.
“There is probably an argument to be made that it’s a little bit gimmicky, and that’s fair, but it’s the All-Star Race and I feel like the All-Star Race gets a free pass on gimmicks to some extent,” Keselowski said. “I’m feeling pretty optimistic that it’s gonna be the best race of the year.”
With a minimum field of 20 cars, there will be at least nine cars on the track with old tires attempting to fend off the cars with fresh tires over the final 13 laps, which will be conducted with NASCAR’s Overtime rules in place. Keselowski credited Charlotte Motor Speedway with establishing the 13-laps for the final round.
“Whenever you have to pass 12 or 13 cars over the course of 13 laps that’s a lot of passing, and I think that’s gonna require perfection from a driver making all the right moves and understanding every little idiosyncrasy of the race track and his competitors,” Keselowski said. “No matter who wins, you’re gonna have to fight hard, whereas I think when we looked at the last few years’ scenario it was pretty simply – win the restart into turn one and you win the race. I didn’t feel like that was an earn it scenario.”
The award for the winning the exhibition race is $1 million. But Keselowski believes it wouldn’t be overreaching to award the All-Star Race winner a birth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“I don’t think it’s out of line,” Keselowski said. “I hadn’t really thought about it, but it seems fair to me. It seems like if you can win an All-Star Race it seems pretty fair.”