Over the last few years, NASCAR has been working hard to improve the racing on the Monster Energy Cup Series, especially on the 1.5-mile and two-mile tracks that are the majority of the schedule. In baseball terms, they've hit some singles, a few bloop doubles, a triple here and there, and suffered the occasional strikeout.

However, when it comes to this Saturday night's All-Star race, NASCAR has put together a rules package that feels like they're trying to smash the ball into the grandstands.   

Without getting too bogged down in every detail, chief among the changes a restrictor plate, two big scoop openings in the front bumper and on the back a rear spoiler six inches high with foot tall "ears" on each end. There's nothing small about any of these modifications as NASCAR tries to come up with something really big for their premier series.

The idea is to create a hybrid of the pack racing like we see at Daytona and Talladega. This is the perfect time and place to see if NASCAR can pull that trick off.  

 "You know I feel the All-Star race is a great place to test things and I'm happy to see NASCAR using that environment and also the speedway allowing that to happen," said Jimmie Johnson.

"It's going to be great," according to Charlotte Motor Speedway President Marcus Smith. "I think when you look back at the All-Star race that you can easily see how it's been an innovation platform for NASCAR with the side-by-side All-Star style restarts that we use every day now to the stages we run in every race. Now, we're going to do something else that may very well make that kind of change happen in the whole sport."

"I think that this package has the potential to make a huge, positive impact on the sport. Not just for the All-Star race but for every race."

That's exactly what NASCAR is looking for to sell more tickets while having more people tune in on TV and radio networks like PRN.  They also knew just having the teams show up at a random track to test this package was not going to give them the answers they needed.

Explained NASCAR Executive VP and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell, "We wanted to make it as much like a race as possible so that when we got through with the All-Star race and really looked at the data everyone in the industry could collectively say this is an apples to apples comparison so that was the goal for us." He also added, "We have always been very candid about directionally this is something we wanted to explore for 2019 so if we had to do it all over again we probably would have already had the All-Star race as part of this package."

Where as teams maybe wouldn't have put their best foot forward for a test, with a seven-figure check going to the winner Saturday night no one is going to sandbag to purposely make the changes look bad.  "For a million bucks I guarantee everybody will be giving their best effort and that's the best way to evaluate a potential aerodynamic package along with the restrictor plate," claimed Kurt Busch.

To rave reviews by drivers and fans alike, this package was used in the Xfinity Series race at the Brickyard last summer, setting a record for lead changes.  Johnson isn't sure we'll see the same results at Charlotte, but he's willing to give it a go.  "I think Indy might serve that package better with the long straightaways to take advantage of the way the aero works on the car, but let's try. Why not? There's really nothing to lose," said the seven-time champion. "It might not be the package we love and want but it I'm sure it will get us a step closer and it will continue to evolve."

The speeds should be decreased dramatically. At Charlotte it could mean instead of running in the 190's drivers will be cruising around in the 170's. That will keep the cars tight and give them more control to make bolder moves than they typically could. 

"I'm not a particular fan of slowing the lead car down and bring that guy back to the rest of the field, but if that's going to create some action and closer racing then so be it," stated Kyle Busch. "As far as us having to do that every single week and continuing on into next year, now I've first got to give it a chance at Charlotte to see what it's like before I completely throw it out, but you know that's not what I signed up to be a NASCAR driver for to continue to scrunch the field up and take away advantages away  from the guys that are fast."

"As far as the All-Star package goes I think that will be a package that comes across as better racing on TV, but it's going to be extremely easy inside the cockpit," Kyle Larson said. "We're kind of in an entertainment business so whatever we can do to make it better on TV, but I don't think there's anything wrong with the package we have now on the mile and a half's."

With all due respect he is wrong. NASCAR knows it. The tracks know it. More importantly a lot of fans don't like what they've seen over the last few years and have been voting with their feet.  Some of the races on these intermediate tracks have been as interesting watching paint peel or water boil.  The plate races have been pretty strong lately and the short track shootouts have had some fireworks, but this sport will not see big gains again until we can have barn burners at those intermediate speedways that make up the bulk of the Cup campaign. 

So, NASCAR has decided to go big.  Unfazed by driver complaints, it feels like they're dug in at the plate and are swinging for the fence, all in going for a home run. Wouldn't it be cool if we look back a few years from now and see it was a grand slam? I certainly hope so.

And the crowd goes wild….