At the half way point of the season how does NASCAR feel about stage racing?
Today, NASCAR VP Steve O’Donnell voiced NASCAR’s opinion of stage racing. After a 1/2 season of the new format, how does the sanctioning body feel about their new format?
Steve O’Donnell via Sirius XM NASCAR Radio, “Definitely here to stay. We’ll sit down with the same group that kind of came up with that concept. We really liked what we’ve seen, and the industry does as well, the strategy that is playing out.”
“The things that will be on the table, do you add one (stage), do you look at the different stages in terms of lengths, the number of caution laps, maybe starting the second stage from Lap 1 instead of kind of eight laps in versus caution laps counting or maybe take those off the backend.”
He concluded, “A lot of those things will be on the table for us but continue to be real enthusiastic how those are playing out.”
Related: Additional NASCAR Stages in 2018?
Stage Racing is an Alternative to the Debris Cautions
I like them. There’s no question that the better solution is to shorten these 3-6 hour races into a short 1 hour race, max. But that just isn’t going to happen. You can bill a lot more commercials in 6 hours than you can a single hour.
It’s a little gimmicky but Stage racing is an alternative to fixing the same problem.
The long drawn out race format doesn’t sit well with the younger crowd. They simply do not have the attention span for it. A 6 hour race with a car 6 full seconds in the lead, the whole time, doesn’t exactly draw in the crowds.
In 2017, fans aren’t sleeping through these races. In the past fans would watch the green flag, the checkered flag then sleep through the middle section. Now, there’s way too much excitement to sleep your way through a stage.
In reality, NASCAR has been stage racing for a long time. It’s nothing new. In the past, instead of a stage conclusion flag, it was a debris caution.
This year, with the exception of Michigan, debris cautions are significantly down. That’s because debris cautions were rarely used for debris. They were ‘let’s bunch up the field’ cautions.
Now, they are way down, but it’s not like there’s magically less debris on the racetrack. The 5 minute clock has certainly cut down debris. Torn race cars are no longer slinging broken sheet metal on the track because those cars are now parked in the garage. But that’s still not why there’s suddenly less debris cautions.
Stage racing has all but made debris cautions redundant. NASCAR stages are a replacement for debris cautions. They take the long races and break them into three, short track shoot-outs.
Before, NASCAR threw a debris caution whenever they felt necessary. Stage racing is a fair playing field. Every team knows exactly when they caution/stage will conclude. Unlike before, when debris cautions helped some and hurt others and came at the surprise to every team on the pit lane.
Since the race distances aren’t going to reduced, stage racing is a nice bandage of a solution.
Author: Shane Walters