NASCAR All-Star Race Was Disappointing, But That Happens Sometimes

The gloves did not come off. None of the boys had at it. And the most notable wreck of the evening was during the race winner's celebration.

As it turned out, the 2011 NASCAR All-Star Race didn't live up to the hype. That's disappointing, although it doesn't mean there's necessarily anyone to blame.

Every race has a winner, but not every race can be a winner. This one wasn't – unless you're a fan of All-Star champ Carl Edwards, of course.

Just last year, the All-Star Race was one of the more memorable events of the season. There were wrecks, flared tempers, hurt feelings and drama – enough to fill not only newspaper columns and highlight reels, but a flood of television commercials that relentlessly hyped this year's edition.

In one ad, NASCAR President Mike Helton dressed up like a sheriff with the drivers acting as gun-toting outlaws. Another commercial replayed crashes and aired the raw, angry radio chatter between teammates over and over – a reminder to anyone that the All-Star Race was a time for drivers to go all out, with no points on the line. Track president Marcus Smith even offered to pay any driver fines for fighting.

The buildup was immense. But if the drivers were willing to mix it up a bit, there was a good chance the race could deliver.

In the end, though, as runner-up Kyle Busch acknowledged, the race was "tame."

"Sorry we didn't give you any scoop (or) drama," he said.

We are, too.

So what happened? Here's one theory: In the era of strict limits on testing, teams now use most of the All-Star Race as glorified practice for next weekend's Coca-Cola 600.

Drivers are indeed willing to take more risks than usual in the final 10 laps, but perhaps the only real chances for that to happen are in the immediate aftermath of a restart.

And if a restart is clean and the field gets strung out in the final segment, there's nothing anyone can do. Last year, the final 10 laps gave fans plenty of action; this year, it seemed obvious Edwards would win with eight laps left – barring a caution that never came.

"You're not always going to have a side-by-side, three-wide finish," Edwards said. "But one little thing being different...and it could have been a much different race.

"Nine out of 10 times, it's going to be a much closer finish that it was tonight."

That doesn't mean it's time to move the All-Star Race or completely revamp the format (although there could certainly be a few tweaks). But as long as drivers only see the purpose in racing hard for the last 10 laps, the All-Star Race will either be boom or bust.

And, as it turned out, this one was a dud.

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