What Is The NASCAR All-Star Race?
If you’re a fan of professional sports, you have probably seen an All-Star Game featuring the biggest stars from around your favorite league. Did you know that the NASCAR Cup Series has its own showcase of champions called the NASCAR All-Star Race? Maybe you have watched the race but are confused about the complex qualifying rules and format. Do you simply want to know what the NASCAR All-Star Race is? Keep reading to have all your questions answered and find out everything you need to know about one of the most exciting and star-studded dates on the NASCAR schedule.
- Current Track: North Wilkesboro Speedway
- Location: Wilkesboro Township, North Carolina
- Previous Locations: Texas Motor Speedway (2021–2022), Bristol Motor Speedway (2020), Charlotte Motor Speedway (1985, 1987–2019), Atlanta Motor Speedway (1986)
- First Race: 1985
- Most Appearances: Mark Martin (24)
- Most Wins: Jimmie Johnson (4)
NASCAR All-Star Race History
The first NASCAR All-Star race was run in 1985 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which became the race’s home for most of its history. The field was composed of the 12 drivers who had won at least one Cup Series race during the previous season. The race itself was a single-segment 70-lap race requiring one pit stop. Both the method of field selection and the race format itself have become more complex throughout the race’s history.
The All-Star Race was initially known as The Winston, after the Cup Series’s naming sponsor. As primary Cup Series sponsors changed, so did the name. Thus, in 2004, it changed to the Nextel All-Star Challenge, then to the Sprint All-Star Race in 2008. The name changed to the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race in 2017, then became simply the NASCAR All-Star Race in 2020, with the adoption of multiple primary sponsors.
In 2020 the All-Star Race moved to Bristol Motor Speedway due to a pandemic-shortened season. The 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race was held at Texas Motor Speedway. In 2023, the location changed again to North Wilkesboro Speedway in celebration of NASCAR’s 75th anniversary.
The NASCAR All-Star Race is a 200-lap winner-take-all race with a million-dollar cash prize. The field for the race is 24 cars, 21 of which are predetermined. The remaining four starting spots are determined by the results of the All-Star Open, a separate race held two hours before the All-Star Race. The 21 predetermined spots are filled by all of the drivers who have won a race during the previous or current season, as well as any prior Cup Series champions and All-Star Race winners who wish to participate.
Qualifying (Pit Crew Challenge)
Lineups for the heat races and the All-Star Open are determined by the results of the Pit Crew Challenge, held on Friday night. In the competition, each pit crew performs a timed pit stop, with the fastest time getting the pole position for the first heat race. The remaining starting positions in the heat races and the All-Star Open are filled based on the times set in the competition, with the fastest times getting the best positions. The winning pit crew also receives a $100,000 prize.
Two 60-lap heat races take place on Saturday night to set the field for the main All-Star Race. The 21 cars already locked into the main event are split in two groups, with 11 cars in Heat 1 and 10 cars in Heat 2. The results of the first heat set the inside row of the All-Star Race’s starting grid, with the results of Heat 2 setting the outside row.
The NASCAR All-Star Open is 100 laps long. A scheduled competition caution pauses the racing around lap 40. Unlike the heat races and the All-Star Race itself, only green flag laps count toward the lap total in the Open. The field of the All-Star Open is composed of the 16 full-time drivers not already qualified for the All-Star Race with the highest owner points so far this season. The top two finishers in the All-Star Open advance to the field of the All-Star Race. The remaining starting position for the All-Star Race is filled by the winner of an online fan vote among the competitors in the Open.
The All-Star Race is 200 laps, or 125 miles long. There is a scheduled “All-Star Caution” that pauses the racing around lap 100. After that caution period, only one additional set of sticker tires may be used. Like the heat races, every lap counts toward the 200-lap total, not just green-flag ones. The first driver to cross the finish line after the 200th lap is the winner. If the race ends under a caution, standard NASCAR overtime rules are used, with additional two-lap overtime shootouts being used until the leader can complete one lap of green-flag racing.
Finish and Prize Purse
The first driver to cross the finish line after 200 laps is the NASCAR All-Star Race winner and takes home the $1 million dollar cash purse. Unlike other NASCAR races, first place is the only paying position, with all other finishers receiving nothing for their troubles.
As it is not a points-paying race, new rules and regulations are often given a trial run at the All-Star Race. For example, the “choose rule,” a rule which allowed drivers to choose between two different lanes upon a restart, was first tested at the 2020 All-Star Race before being implemented throughout the rest of the schedule. Aside from any new trial rules, which change every year, the rules of the All-Star Race are the same as any other NASCAR Cup Series race.
Jimmie Johnson holds the record for most All-Star Race victories, achieving four wins during his career. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr. are tied for second place, with three wins apiece. Hendrick Motorsports is the dominant team at the All-Star Race by a large margin; their cars have taken home a record-setting ten victories. Tied for second in team wins are Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing, with four wins each.
How does the NASCAR All-Star Race work?
The NASCAR All-Star Race is a 200-lap exhibition race with a scheduled competition caution around lap 100. If the final lap ends under caution, standard NASCAR overtime rules are used to determine a winner with two-lap shootouts. The field for the All-Star Race is set by the results of two heat races on Saturday and the All-Star Open on Sunday afternoon.
What is the prize for the NASCAR All-Star Race?
The cash purse for the NASCAR All-Star Race is $1 million. The full amount of this prize is given out to the winner of the race, rather than being distributed in a staggered fashion amongst the top placers, like other races across the sports world. This means that the only person who receives any money from the race is the winner, aside from the winners of the Pit Crew Challenge, where the winning crew receives $100,000.