NASCAR’s All-Star Race is right around the corner and the campaigning for the fan vote is at a fever pitch, at least by some of the drivers trying to get into the prestigious event via that avenue.
But is getting into the race via the fan vote a legitimate way to be an “All Star” in the sport?
NASCAR rules say that drivers are all stars and eligible for the race if they have won races in the current or preceding year. Drivers who are past Sprint Cup champions or those who have won the All-Star Race in the past 10 years are also eligible to participate.
There are approximately 20 drivers that are eligible based on this set of rules. Those drivers include the likes of NASCAR’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to four-time champions Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, as well as current points leader Kevin Harvick.
In NASCAR’s version of the All-Star Race, there is also a way to race your way into the show. Prior to the All-Star feature there is the Sprint Showdown, where the winning driver and the driver that finishes in the second spot make their way into the main event.
Then comes the final way that a driver can participate in the All-Star Race, the fan vote where fans can either text their votes on their Sprint phones, which actually count double, or log in on nascar.com to vote, as often and regularly as the fans choose. NASCAR allows voting right up until the drivers are introduced for the All-Star event, saving the driver who is voted in by the fans for the last introduction prior to the race.
This year, a whole host of drivers from the current stable as well as the past may only be participating in the All-Star Race if they are voted in by the fans. But does that make them “All Stars” or is it merely a popularity contest amongst the drivers?
Some of those eligible for the fan vote have chosen not to actively participate in campaigning for those votes, choosing instead to focus on racing their way into the event. Drivers like veteran Jeff Burton have decided to take a low profile on the fan vote meter and stay out of the fray.
On Claire B. Lang’s show Dialed In on Sirius NASCAR radio, she is featuring drivers eligible for the fan vote and asking them about their campaign strategies. Clint Bowyer, one of the drivers who either has to race his way in or get voted in by the fans, said clearly that he was not campaigning and in fact thought that was kind of tacky to do so.
Other drivers, however, have taken the opposite tack. A.J. Allmendinger, a driver who came close last year to being voted in by the fans, has a very active campaign going. The Dinger has hosted tweet ups where he encourages fans to vote to having his wife, the gorgeous Dr. Lynne, wearing a “Vote for my Husband” T-Shirt at the track, encouraging the fan vote process.
While Allmendinger has utilized social media to campaign for the fan vote, Martin Truex, Jr. has taken it to new heights. He has a YouTube video out showing him putting campaign fliers on cars to try to secure that coveted fan vote into the race.
And then of course there is the just plain silly campaign strategy. That would be led by none other than Scott Speed, who is promising to throw a pie in the face of competitor and friend Kyle Busch if he gets voted into the All-Star show.
Cheesy or not, there is no doubt that every driver who is eligible wants to take his place behind the wheel of his car in the All-Star race. But does a popularity contest vote make them a legitimate “All Star?”
It is after all a race without points and just for fun and show. So, a fan vote seems natural to choose a participant, as it is done in many other sports.
The bottom line for NASCAR drivers, however, is that it really does not matter how they get into the race. Ultimately, they are racers and they want to strap in and compete no matter how they got there.
Currently the top 10 drivers in the fan voting in alphabetical order are A.J. Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Bill Elliott, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex, Jr. and Michael Waltrip.
So, NASCAR fans, your vote does an All Star make. Fans can vote often and plenty on their Sprint phones by texting NASCAR to 7777 or by logging onto nascar.com and clicking on the All-Star race icon.
The Sprint Cup All-Star Race will run on Saturday, May 22 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.