NASCAR official says one driver not to blame for All-Star confusion

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NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell said that one driver shouldn’t be blamed for the Sprint All-Star Race format, admitted that “we learned some lessons” from last weekend’s race but was encouraged by the racing.

O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, made his comments Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Brad Keselowski was given credit for some of the ideas when the format was introduced — and then blamed for what resulted Saturday night — but O’Donnell said the format changes included input from several drivers, NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway, among others.

“I’ve seen some of the blame, some of the tweets that are cast upon one driver, let me dispel that myth,’’ O’Donnell said. “This was an inclusive effort. Were there some folks that maybe didn’t like the concept going in? Sure, but that’s any part of a format. I’m proud of what we put together in working with folks, working with the track and the industry. When you saw it play out in the race, I don’t want to say it was a perfect storm, but it was.’’

Problems occurred late in the first 50-lap segment. All teams were required to make a green-flag pit stop during that segment. Matt Kenseth was the only driver who hadn’t when Jamie McMurray’s spin brought out the caution on Lap 47. The caution period went to the end of the segment.

Kenseth had no chance at that point to fulfill the green-flag pit stop requirement before the segment ended.

NASCAR held Kenseth for a lap on pit road. Still, eight cars were a lap down and had no chance of getting their lap back. In a typical race, they could have stayed on the track for the wave around to get back on the lead lap while those ahead pitted. Problem was that NASCAR required all teams to pit after the first segment for at least two tires.

“In hindsight, we didn’t have the wave-around rule,’’ O’Donnell said. “Once you mandate that teams come down to change tires together, that prevented us from having a wave around and that created where we trapped cars a lap down.

“Do we wish we would have had that in place? Absolutely. Could we have made a call to maybe just wave them around anyway? We probably could have. The guys who had a lap up on everybody, what would they say? It was an unfortunate circumstance. We thought we had anticipated everything, but this one snuck up on us.’’

O’Donnell also was asked if the event would remain at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It has been run there every year but once since debuting in 1985.

“We’re happy with the event at Charlotte,’’ he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Our intent is that it will be at Charlotte.’’

O’Donnell said that Tony Stewart would not be fined for his comments on FS1’s broadcast. O’Donnell said he talked to Stewart after the race.

O’Donnell also said that he felt good about the racing. Joey Logano chased leader Kyle Larson and passed him with two laps to go to win.

We put some tweaks into the rules package, certainly minor, but wanted to see directionally if it would continue to have a positive influence on a track, especially at Charlotte, that has been one of the more challenging tracks for us both from tire wear and the leader getting kind of a big separation from second place,’’ O’Donnell said.

“What you saw really throughout the night, especially with some of our up-and-coming talent battling door-to-door for wins was really encouraging to see. The ability to pass certainly improved for the weekend and expect to see that continue for the (Coca-Cola) 600. Directionally, from a race product, (it’s) really continuing on what we’ve seen all year long, which is absolutely encouraging.’’