I decided to head to NASCAR’s first-ever All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on a whim. It’s close, it wasn’t awfully expensive, and I figured it was time to see some NASCAR racing on an oval track, not just at Circuit of the Americas. But once the rules were announced, I knew I wanted to go for another reason: to see if I’d be able to follow the various races from the grandstands.
As a quick refresher, this year’s All-Star Race, for which the prize was $1 million, consisted of six different sprint races. We did a full breakdown of each race previously, so if you want all the details, you can find them there. In essence, though, fans were dealing with various inversions and starting positions based on cumulative finishes in various different iterations.
Some fans were already cynical that they would struggle to follow the format on television, and I wanted to see how it would play out from the grandstands. Races can be tough to follow in person anyway—it’s hard to hear commentary or the running order over the noise of the engines.
I can confirm that it was pretty much impossible to follow from the stands… but I don’t think anyone really minded. As my husband told me, the whole point of going to a NASCAR race is to drink a lot and watch fast cars, which will generally result in a good time being had. That’s pretty much what happened. You could tell a random inversion was happening because the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders would reveal a number, but when the inversion happened from ninth place on the grid, fans around me thought they were talking about Chase Elliott. It even took me a minute before I realized, right, this is that inversion thing.
But I can’t say that I minded all that much. It was a non-points scoring race, so it wasn’t like I was missing any significant championship moves. I was basically just there to watch a dude win a lot of money and enjoy some racing in the meantime. The fact that I was totally out of the loop was a lot less important. For a regular season event or a playoff race, I probably would have cared a lot more—but those events also don’t have mini sprint races with weird field layouts that require your full attention to understand.
What I’m saying is, if you’re physically attending the All-Star Race, you’re probably not going to be as interested in keeping track of running order as you will be just enjoying yourself.