NASCAR Cup Series All-Star race: A rules primer for fans and drivers alike
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
Drivers tend to like to know the rules when it comes to competition.
But there are times when drivers opt not to fill their heads with too much information. The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series All-Star race on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway could very well be one of those times.
Drivers might know the race is 100 laps on the 1.5-mile oval. They know they will have engine airflow restricted to the point that they are at 510 horsepower, about 40 horsepower less than usual at 1.5-mile tracks. They are familiar with the areas where NASCAR has sprayed traction compound on the surface in hopes of creating passing lanes.
"I haven’t even looked into it," said Austin Dillon, one of 17 automatic qualifiers for the event. "I went through my sim session today, just trying to make the car drive as good as possible on the simulator.
"The one thing I did work on that was kind of different – I know there’s a $100,000 reward for the fastest pit stop, and that includes yellow line to yellow line. So I have to do my part to help our pit crew have that opportunity as well."
He is right about that. For all of those who will tune in for the final Cup event on the FOX portion of the schedule (prerace starts at 5 p.m. ET on FS1, which will have coverage through the checkered flag), here is your explainer on the rules of the race:
The All-Star race will consist of six rounds (100 laps broken into rounds of 15-15-15-15-30-10), and teams will have four sets of tires (including the set on the cars for the start of the race). Here is how it goes:
— Starting order for the race was done by random draw.
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— First round: 15 laps. Only green-flag laps count. One attempt at NASCAR overtime, if needed. At the end of the stage, a wheel will be spun, and the top eight, nine, 10, 11 or 12 will be inverted. All lap-down cars get a free pass. Any car that pits does not lose position as long as it doesn’t lose a lap on pit road.
— Second round: 15 laps. Only green-flag laps count. One attempt at NASCAR overtime, if needed. At the end of the stage, the entire field will be inverted. All lap-down cars get a free pass. Any car that pits does not lose position as long as it doesn’t lose a lap on pit road.
— Third round: 15 laps. Same as the first round. Only green-flag laps count. One attempt at NASCAR overtime, if needed. At the end of the stage, a wheel will be spun, and the top eight, nine, 10, 11 or 12 will be inverted. All lap-down cars get a free pass. Any car that pits does not lose position as long as it doesn’t lose a lap on pit road.
— Fourth round: 15 laps. Only green-flag laps count. One attempt at NASCAR overtime, if needed. The lineup will then be reset on the lowest cumulative finish of the first four rounds (so if a driver finishes first, third, fourth and second, his score would be 10). The tiebreakers are most All-Star wins, most Cup point races wins and current driver point standings. All lap-down cars get a free pass. Any car that pits does not lose position as long as it doesn’t lose a lap on pit road.
— Fifth round: 30 laps. Only green flag laps count. One attempt at NASCAR overtime, if needed. On or before Lap 20, all drivers must do a four-tire pit stop. The team with the shortest time on pit road, yellow line to yellow line with no penalties, wins $100,000. The first four-tire stop, if someone does multiple stops, is the one that counts. If there is a tie, finish in Round 5 will be the tiebreaker. Anyone who doesn’t do the pit stop starts at the tail of the field for Round 6. Any lapped-down car at the end of the stage gets the free pass. Anyone who pits after the fifth round (during the break between rounds) will line up in order of coming off pit road behind those who didn't pit.
— Sixth round: 10 laps. Only green-flag laps count. Unlimited overtime attempts.
Other key elements:
— Damaged vehicle policy is in effect, but there is no six-minute clock.
— Choose rule is in effect for all restarts.
— Must be on the lead lap to be eligible for any inverts.
— All pit stops during caution laps during rounds (not at breaks between rounds) are live pit stops and can lose positions. The pit stop in Round 5 will be considered a "green-flag" pit stop, as long as the driver enters pit road under green.
The fact that drivers won’t lose spots on pit road, except prior to the final round, could be key.
"We’ll be able to adjust a little bit. If you start aggressive and you don’t feel like that’s the right direction, you might be able to tighten your car up or do something to make the car drive a little better," Dillon said.
"Sometimes we don’t want to adjust the car because it slows the pit stops down. We’ll have a little more time to adjust and make the car drive a little different if you’re struggling with something."
Added Dillon: "As far as the inversion and all the different starting positions, I think I’ll just leave that up to [crew chief] Justin [Alexander] and the guys to help me out with that. I know we’re starting fifth, and we’ll just take it from there. I think it’s a 100-lap race and a couple different cautions and resets throughout. So I guess the most average finishes play into it and speed. We’ll just make it work."
As for the Open qualifier, it will be three stages, 20-20-10, with the starting lineup set by driver points. Green and caution laps count in the first two stages, but only green-flag laps count in the final 10-lap stage. There will be one attempt at overtime for the first two stages and multiple attempts for the final stage. All pit stops are "live" stops, and drivers can lose/gain positions on pit road.
Any driver who wins a stage doesn’t compete in the rest of the event. The fan vote is the driver who didn’t win a stage and has the most votes. Voting for the fan vote (through NASCAR’s website), ends at noon ET Friday.
Thinking Out Loud
NASCAR announced that it would slow the cars by 7-10 mph at Daytona and Talladega by reducing the size of the holes in the restrictor plate. It also will eliminate the wicker bill that sat across the top of the rear spoiler.
The hope is that the slower speeds will mean less chance of a car getting airborne. The problem is that by reducing speeds, the cars could be even tighter in a pack, limiting reaction time and giving few options on how to react, with the likelihood of being full throttle in a draft.
Some fans have moaned about slowing the cars down, but NASCAR has to keep trying things at Daytona and Talladega. Logano’s wreck in April at Talladega was quite scary, and while he wasn’t injured, being proactive is the right thing to do.
NASCAR also made the roof bar – which originally was optional – mandatory for Daytona and Talladega, in hopes that any landing on the roof will not result in the roof caving in as much as it did in Logano’s case.
They Said It
"Expectations are we start fifth in the Open, drive up to the lead, win the Open, get in the All-Star race and go race with my heroes." — Ross Chastain on the All-Star event
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!