CHARLOTTE – The Sprint All-Star Race often is described as a glorified test session for the Coca-Cola 600.
This year’s event at Charlotte Motor Speedway might be a test session for an entire season.
NASCAR heavily is considering using the May 16 showcase as a trial run of the rules package for the 2016 season and has begun informing Sprint Cup teams of the possibility, multiple sources have told MotorSportsTalk.
During a state of the sport address to open Monday’s Media Tour, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell noted the All-Star Race was the goal for unveiling the rules for next season. The 2015 rules were delivered in September, which O’Donnell said was the earliest release yet.
“We anticipate beating that marker in 2016, and we’ll look to bring the rules package to the teams as early as we can with a target date of around the All-Star Race for this year,” O’Donnell said.
An official with direct knowledge of the All-Star Race proposal said Charlotte Motor Speedway and Sprint were supportive of using the 2016 rules because it also would prevent teams from getting a jump on preparing for the Coca-Cola 600 and increasing the likelihood of a lackluster race. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan wasn’t finalized.
The Sprint All-Star Race could use a jolt of relevance. In nine editions since the repaving of Charlotte in 2006, there has been one lead during the final five laps of an event billed as promoting a no-holds-barred style. In the past three Sprint All-Star Races, the winner has led the final 10 laps.
But a potential drawback for NASCAR could be whether the sneak preview of the 2016 rules delivers a better version of the racing than with the current rules that will be featured over four hours the following week at Charlotte in the season’s longest race.
There’s no timetable for the decision on using next year’s rules in the All-Star Race, but NASCAR tested some ideas for next year during a session last month at Charlotte. More testing is expected to occur at Atlanta Motor Speedway next month and at Charlotte in March.
This year’s rules will feature a significant decline in downforce and a reduction of about 125 horsepower. Another cut in downforce is expected in 2016, which will make cars’ handling more difficult.