ABINGDON, Va. - Expect carnage in Bristol on July 15.
That is according to Chris Carrier, the crew chief for Henderson Motorsports in Abingdon, who is thrilled that the NASCAR All-Star Race has been moved to Bristol Motor Speedway.
While the format for the event is still being determined, Carrier knows what NASCAR is looking to create. It won’t be hard to achieve in Bristol.
“It is all to promote excitement. They don’t want anything to be dull, no dull,” Carrier said. “It promotes people having to pass. They actually want the faster cars to have to pass other cars to get to the front for that meeting in the middle. Usually it ends up in carnage.”
Bristol has long been known for beating and banging along the “World’s Fast Half-Mile”, and that will definitely be the case with a $1 million prize waiting for the winning team.
The All-Star Race, which has no bearing on NASCAR’s regular season, including the points standings, will start at 7 p.m., and will be televised by FS1.
“They are probably going to want to fit the whole thing into a two-hour window, more than likely, and make it so where you are going to see fireworks. That is what it is all about,” Carrier said. “There is no ifs, ands or buts about it, there is no second guessing. It doesn’t pay any points, there is no after-effects of it except for carnage and that is part of it.
“It has always been that way. There has always been carnage at that race, no matter what format they had or no matter where they had it.”
NASCAR first created the All-Star Race in 1985, and it has been run in Charlotte all but one time for the last 35 years. With the spiked COVID-19 numbers in North Carolina, NASCAR found a willing track replacement in Bristol, a wish Carrier and other race fans have had for decades.
“I think it is huge. I can remember talking about the idea, the hope, whatever you want to call it, for the All-Star Race to be at Bristol for 20 years or more,” Carrier said. “Just the format of the race and what exactly it is about. What it usually produces as far as excitement and a little bit of rubbing, beating and banging, hard-nosed racing, all for one big prize, no points, all-reward, no risk kind of deal.
“To me, that goes right along with Bristol. I am glad to see it here. I hope the local fans and spectators and local businesses will profit from it, will enjoy it and I hope it is a success. I think the racing will be great.”
Carrier understands what is at stake. He was the crew chief for Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 77 Penske Racing team in 2008, finishing second to Kasey Kahne.
“There were a couple of times when we were involved in the race, but I don’t have any fond memories of it,” he said. “I don’t have anything I can brag about.”
There was a time when he thought he might. The All-Star Race, which currently has 15 qualified drivers, will pick up at least four more entrants from the All-Star Open prior to the main event on July 15, along with the winner of an All-Star Fan Vote.
There have been several occasions when an Open qualifier has won the all-star event. Carrier thought his team could have added one more, recalling what he referred to as a “dog tracker” car that was driven mainly as a test run for the next week’s World 600 in Charlotte. Instead, it crashed into the wall and NASCAR kept it out of the following week’s race.
“That thing would haul the mail. It was something else,” Carrier said. “That was one time we showed up and had the field covered. That could have been a big night. Unfortunately we drove it straight into the wall on the first lap of the big race.”
Carrier knows that could have been a life-changing event for his team, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“I had a lot of hope that night. We had a really good chance to come away from there with over $1 million and a big win and something that would have turned our team around, but I think we basically ran out of talent and ran into walls and tore that car up and we didn’t get a very good finish and that was the end of that story,” he said. “That is the closest I ever came to any glory. I saw a lot of destruction, but nothing to brag about.”
Expect more dreams to be dashed in 26 days. It remains to be seen what type of format will be used since Charlotte is a completely different track than Bristol. It isn’t a typical race, with NASCAR normally running the event in segments, with other changes thrown in, anything to generate fan interest.
The format last year in Charlotte included four stages with 30, 30, 20 and 15 laps, along with five more laps added for 85 laps in all. The All-Star Open, which was held before the main event, had three segments with 20, 20 and 15 laps.
Those numbers will undoubtedly increase simply due to Charlotte Motor Speedway being three times the size of Bristol.
“Obviously instead of a mile-and-a-half track, you have got a half-mile track so the laps are going to click off pretty quick,” Carrier said. “I think they are going to come up with something that is going to promote the necessity to pass, one way or another. To get the big prize you are going to have to pass some cars.
“You are not going to be able to get out front and ride around and go away from people, they are going to do it in segments, and they are going to take so many cars and so many positions, they are going to invert them, they are going to do this, they are going to do that. They are going to have incentive for leading laps probably in my opinion.”
Carrier figures that $1 million prize will create plenty of bedlam in Bristol. He can recall thrills from past all-star races, including Dale Earnhardt going through the grass to block Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace running through Darrell Waltrip’s battery box to spin him out and Kyle Petty wrecking Davey Allison on the final lap in pursuit of victory.
“That is a lot of money. When you wave that out there in front of people, especially even seasoned drivers that already make a lot of money, it is like Katie bar the door,” he said. “There is no-holds barred. It has happened forever...It is always something to watch and I always enjoy watching it myself.”
Carrier is hopeful that Parker Kligerman and the Henderson Motorsports No. 75 Food County USA Chevrolet, will finally be able to compete for the first time this season in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Pocono in Pennsylvania next week.
He will be focused on that opportunity, but knows that the entire NASCAR and sports world will be watching Bristol when all-stars converge in less than a month. Expect it to be a must-watch event, either from the stands or the TV.
“I am sure they are going to come up with some kind of formula that is going to encourage as much conversation, as much anticipation, as much hype, as much excitement they can possibly dream up,” Carrier said. “That is what it is all about, that is what it is. It is just like the circus coming into town.
“They are going to have clowns and elephants and people that fly through the air and get shot out of cannons. All of that is NASCAR’s form of that. This is NASCAR’s version of that.”
Not only will this event be highly anticipated in NASCAR, but with 30,000 fans allowed in a facility that seats just under 150,000 with social distancing and other CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines to follow, it will be closing watched by other sports leagues as the largest gathering for a sporting event since the COVID-19 pandemic shut much of the nation and world down in mid-March.
Carrier is crossing his fingers for a great show and the possibility of a repeat performance in the future.
“It will be interesting. I am glad they did it. I think it has been a long time coming,” Carrier said. “This area is going to be glad for it, they are going to let something like 30,000 fans in and I think those are going to be 30,000 pretty happy people.
“I am glad for that and I hope that the local economy, local businesses and just our local population benefits from it and enjoys it and appreciates it and maybe it will start a tradition where it is going to come back every year.
“That is what I am hoping. Maybe next year they will have 160,000 fans in there to watch that thing.”
firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: BHCWoodson | (276) 645-2543