CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – NASCAR’s championship-deciding system isn’t the only thing about to be changed. The annual All-Star race is also being examined by series officials for tweaks to its format, The Associated Press has learned.

Lowe’s Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler confirmed Tuesday that talks are under way to make changes to the Nextel All-Star Challenge. The race has been run at the suburban Charlotte track 20 of its 21 years.

“We’re getting together in the next few weeks with NASCAR and Nextel to discuss some ways to tweak this thing,” Wheeler said. “The bottom line is we are trying to find a way to put together 2 hours of absolutely great racing.”

The All-Star race currently is a 90-lap invitational, non-points race for Nextel Cup drivers. The winner gets a $1 million payout.

The field is currently determined by drivers who have won races in the current and preceding year, past All-Star race winners and Cup champions from the last 10 years. The winner of the Nextel Open – the race held before the main event for all drivers not otherwise eligible – advances, and a fan vote was recently added to get another driver in.

Now NASCAR is considering tying in the race with its Pit Crew Challenge, but is undecided on what to award. One idea being discussed is giving the pole position to the winner of the Pit Crew competition.

Wheeler would like to see the field widened. He’d like more than one driver to advance out of the Open, and said he might push to get the top drivers from the Busch Series and Truck Series into the event.

“I’d like to get more cars in the field, and it’s the All-Star race, so I don’t see why the all-stars from the other series can’t compete,” he said. “At the same time, we are walking a fine line because it is the All-Star race and where do we draw the line of who should be in and who shouldn’t?”

The format is also being examined and will likely change from its current three-segment form. The race currently starts with a 40-lap segment, followed by a 10-minute break in which teams are allowed to work on their cars.

That’s followed by a 30-lap run, a yellow-flag pit stop, and a final 20-lap dash for the cash.

“We might end up shortening the segments some,” Wheeler said. “We like that final 20-lap dash, the racing has always been very good over that final 20. But we’re looking at a way to get rid of all the lulls in the action.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers played a short set during this year’s 10-minute break, and track and Nextel officials have worked tirelessly to create an atmosphere similar to other sports’ All-Star events.

LMS is always rumored to be in danger of losing the race, as NASCAR seeks to rotate it between venues. Teams and drivers are adamantly against that, because most are based in the area and treat the event as a “home race” that gives them a break from the 36-race schedule.

With NASCAR’s Hall of Fame now coming to Charlotte, the event is likely safe at LMS and will eventually be tied into induction ceremonies and other Hall events.

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