Another year means yet another format for the Sprint All-Star Race, and this format promises to be the most confusing of all.
Unveiled Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the 2013 version will feature four 20-lap segments to be followed by a 10-lap final segment.
However, there is a catch.
After the completion of four segments, NASCAR will reconfigure the running order based on the average finish drivers had in the opening four heats. Once the lineup is reset, all drivers will be required to make a pit stop for four tires with the lineup for the fifth and final segment to be determined by the order off of pit road.
Yes, it's as confusing as it sounds.
In short, NASCAR doesn't want drivers to sandbag, which became an issue last year when Jimmie Johnson won the opening segment and then, knowing he had a spot secured, coasted until the final segment.
"We're going to put a little more emphasis on all the laps and your finishes (in the segments)," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said Tuesday. "It will make you hustle during the four segments leading up to that. And we feel like it's something that will really put an emphasis on speed for the whole night."
However, instead of creating an easy-to-follow race for fans and teams alike that encourages hard racing, the 2013 edition of the All-Star Race now requires an abacus.
The key difference being that, unlike last year, winning a segment no longer guarantees that a driver will have a top-four spot heading into the mandatory pit stop.
One thing that hasn't changed is the eligibility requirements, as all race winners from 2012 and '13 along with the top two finishers from the Sprint Showdown and the winner of the fan vote will compete for the $1 million prize. In addition, any winner of the All-Star Race from the last 10 years is also eligible.
And if a driver wins all five segments, he gets an extra million in his bank account.
The good news for all involved is that the race isn't for another three months, which gives all us needed time to sort through this muddled mess and dust off our calculators.
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