NASCAR used an experimental aero and rules package during this year's All-Star Race as part of a bold move to increase passing among the cars, create tighter racing and drum up the entertainment value for fans. And lo and behold, the governing body appears to have achieved success, as green-lap passes increased and that race ranked as one of the best of the year thus far.
Our ESPN.com experts weigh in on whether it's a good idea for NASCAR to move forward on installing the package at other tracks.
Should NASCAR use the All-Star Race aero package at other racetracks, and if so, which ones?
Mike Clay, ESPN: I think it's worth a shot. Watching the All-Star Race, I kept thinking, "This is the future of NASCAR." And I said that while also observing how slow the cars seemed to be moving (not ideal). After sitting in the tri-oval and watching Kyle Busch absolutely dominate the Coca-Cola 600 last month, I'm even more convinced changes are coming to keep the field closer together. Plain and simple, as impressive as Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have been over the past year, it's not particularly fun to watch the same two or three guys dominate every single week. I'm always interested in finding ways to make sure talent decides the winner, but entertainment value matters, especially in NASCAR's current state. It should -- and I think will -- at least experiment with new packages in an ongoing effort to improve the product.
Ricky Craven, ESPN NASCAR analyst: Yes. The All-Star package created curiosity and intrigue pre-race, delivered a boost to smaller teams (AJ Allmendinger, for example) and produced an element of unpredictability that must exist in live sporting events. I'm of the opinion that creating unique aerodynamic packages (such as what we saw at the All-Star Race) could have value at all 1.5-mile tracks with enhanced potential at Michigan, Pocono and Indianapolis. Questions remain on who pays for all of these changes and how quickly can they be incorporated while maintaining parity across all three manufacturers? I asked several drivers their view on using the package going forward and few endorsed the idea. Their reactions suggested to me that a change probably needs to happen regardless, and as soon as possible because NASCAR is far more entertaining when the drivers are competing outside their comfort zone.
Ryan McGee, ESPN senior writer: Yes, and I don't really care which one, as long as they do it at one place and one place only. Everything that is cool can't be immediately stuck on an assembly line to try and replicate the coolness. That's when what was once awesome becomes repetitive and stale. See: how we ended up with all these tracks that all want in on the restrictor-plate experiment. They call them "cookie cutter" for a reason. Pick one, give it the plates and stop there. Preserve the uniqueness and make sure it stays in the spirit of "Awesome! Trucks on the dirt at Eldora!" and doesn't become "Oh, geez, another night race?"
Alisha Miller, ESPN.com: Here's a smattering of descriptors that were used to detail the 2018 All-Star Race rules package: excited, optimistic, enthused, great and fun. As Denny Hamlin exclaimed following this year's annual All-Star event, "We'll see where it takes us in the future." Well, the future is upon us, and it's time NASCAR embrace one of those fluffy, feel-good adjectives and work on incorporating the restrictor plates and air ducts that tunneled air through the front wheel wells before hitting the front tires into at least one more race this season. The Aug. 12 race at Michigan would be the best choice because it gives enough time for the teams to prepare for some exciting and fun Cup racing.
Scott Page, Jayski editor: NASCAR (along with the team owners) need to be flexible and willing to continue to experiment with rules that will improve the quality of racing. The All-Star aero package seemed like a step in the right direction, but never underestimate the ability for the changes to be lackluster when the teams have had time to figure out the setups. Nevertheless, Indianapolis is a hands-down choice to try the package. It's hard to imagine anything making the racing less competitive there. Michigan is obviously the other best choice to continue experimenting.
Bob Pockrass, ESPN.com: I'd go with one track, because a new package shouldn't have a huge effect on who makes the playoffs. Indianapolis possibly could work the best, but as the last race of the regular season, that doesn't seem to be the best formula. Michigan appears as the best alternative. With that race still two months out, NASCAR should conduct a one-day test with 20 to 30 cars in the next couple of weeks to make sure it will work -- the fans at Michigan, subject to a poor "test" race in the past, deserve to know they haven't bought tickets for an overhyped race that under-delivers.
Scott Symmes, ESPN.com: Yes. The buzz created from the All-Star Race warrants further experimentation, but let's not overdo it. I think two more races (at most) would appease the masses and give NASCAR and the teams a good read on just how practical this aero package is for 2019. I'd go with Kentucky, a Saturday night race that could tell us whether the excitement we saw at Charlotte was a fluke, and Pocono, despite the mixed reviews from Saturday's Xfinity race. If there's a way to create tighter packs on Pocono's long straightaways, it would be a win for fans.
Matt Willis, ESPN Stats & Information: It seems like the move is being rushed into action, but, yes, we need this package at the intermediate tracks in a bad way. A couple of weeks ago, at the All-Star Race, there were 38 green-flag passes for the lead, according to NASCAR's loop data. Last year, at the same race, there were none. So yeah, I'd take an extra 38 green-flag passes for the lead per race. Especially when you consider that this season, there's been an average of 16.1 lead changes per race (those are the lead changes at the start-finish line). That stat is down a little from last year (16.5) at this point, and it's on pace to be the lowest for a complete season since 1992. The Cup series needs a boost just like this at intermediate tracks where drivers wouldn't have to lift much on the turns. Michigan and any of the 1.5- or 2-mile tracks seem like strong contenders.