The NASCAR All-Star race will return to Texas Motor Speedway next month for the second straight year, but now with head-to-head knockout qualifying added to the event.
Instead of six rounds like in years past, NASCAR will split the 125-lap main event into four rounds, Fox News Fox News reports. The first three rounds will feature 25 laps each, while the fourth will include 50 laps with a winner-take-all $1 million prize on the line.
The rest of the tournament works similarly to a bracket challenge. The winner of the first round gets to start the final round in pole position as long as he finishes 15th or better in the two rounds in-between. The round two winner will start second in the final if he finishes 15th or better in round three; and the third round winner will start third. So while there is incentive to win early, some drivers may opt to strategize their racing differently to balance output versus potential reward.
Even better, a creative new pit stop competition that takes place between stages two and three will determine the fourth spot in round four.
NASCAR is adding all sorts of creative new angles for All-Star race weekend
Some interesting new head-to-head knockout rules will also apply to all racers in the updated format. The first round consists of single-car, single-lap runs in reverse order of the season standings before the race. The fastest eight drivers then move on to a one-on-one elimination bracket which begins in pit lane. The teams must complete a four-tire change before the cars take off with no speed limit and complete one lap of the track to determine a winner.
To make matters even more interesting, drivers will have to qualify for the All-Star race festivities via the NASCAR Open earlier in the day. Some automatic qualifiers do exist, though: All-Star winners and season champions competing full time this season earn a free pass to the All-Star Race; as do Cup Series race winners from 2021 and 2022.
The NASCAR Open consists of a 50-lap race broken down into three segments: two sets of 20 laps, and one set of 10 laps. The winner of each segment — plus a fan vote winner — gets to compete in the All-Star racing later in the day.
So far, just 20 racers have qualified for the NASCAR All-Star race weekend. Those racers include the following: AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Martin Truex Jr., and Bubba Wallace.
Tune in Sunday, May 22, to see if your favorite racer qualified for All-Star racing weekend on FS1.