NASCAR All-Star Race move aims to have 30,000 fans at Bristol

Add the idea of the NASCAR All-Star Race at a short track to the things that have sat in the NASCAR suggestion box for years that will end up happening as a result of a pandemic.

The NASCAR All-Star Race will move from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Bristol Motor Speedway, turning its $1 million-to-win event July 15 from a dicey game of chess on a 1.5-mile oval to a potential rumble on a high-banked 0.533-mile concrete bullring.

With COVID-19 cases increasing in North Carolina and the Charlotte area and Tennessee officials willing to allow for 30,000 fans, NASCAR and track operator Speedway Motorsports made a move that many fans had lobbied for to increase the intensity among drivers in the event.

“You all are on Twitter, and I get hammered every day on, ‘More short tracks, please,” NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell said during a news conference Monday night. “So here you go.”

There have been 35 all-star races – 34 of them at Charlotte and one try at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986. There have been some great all-star races, including some spectacular moments when the event was moved to night, but short-track racing often features more contact between the cars and a finish more likely to be determined in the final laps.

“All the teams recognize this is an opportunity for us to showcase our sport, to do something we’ve always talked about and let’s take a chance and see how it works,” O’Donnell said.

“I couldn’t be more excited. I think the whole industry is ready to go.”

Obviously the ability to have fans played an important role in the move.

“It gives an opportunity for fans to go and enjoy a sporting event that they haven’t been able to do in quite some time,” Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith said.

NASCAR has not given the format for the race, which is open to winners of races in 2019 and 2020, former all-star winners and past Cup champions. There will be four additional spots available to the winners of the three stages of the Open and then one spot available from an online fan vote.

Fifteen drivers are qualified so far for the event: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliot, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.