Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Is It Time for Stage Racing to Go?

Article Contents

Circle B Diecast Block

Article Contents

Let us know what you think

Join the conversation on socials

Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts

On Tuesday, we ran a poll asking Daily Downforce readers if they had to get rid of one NASCAR rule between stages, caution laps counting, and choose cone and green-white-checkered finishes. Well, the winner of the poll was Stages with 48.5% of the 637 votes. NASCAR toyed with stages a bit this season by getting rid of stage cautions on road courses, but, should NASCAR get rid of stages totally?

Why Were Stages Implemented to Begin With

In order to analyze whether or not stages should still be in NASCAR, we need to look at why stages were implemented to begin with. Simply put, it was implemented to improve the racing product throughout the race.

We’re going to do what our fans have been asking us to do. That’s to make the racing compelling on an hour by hour basis.

Brian France via Racing News

On top of that, stage racing was implemented to help make the regular season matter more. With the introduction of Playoffs points for winning stages and races, it was intended to give the best drivers an advantage in the Playoffs. Under the original 16-driver system, bonus points were only given out for race wins, and those points were gone after the first round.

This format puts a premium on every victory and every in-race position over the course of the season. Each point can eventually result in winning or losing a championship.

Steve O’Donnell via Racing News

Another reason for the change was allowing broadcasters to air commercial breaks. During an old-school NASCAR race, TV broadcasters did not know when a caution would come out, and that meant that commercials would cut into green flag racing. Jordan Bianchi, then of SB Nation, discussed this when stage racing was first implemented.

Has Stage Racing Accomplished Its Outset Goals?

So, there are three stated goals of stage racing: Make the racing product better throughout the race, make the regular season matter more, and give broadcasters a pre-determined time to air commercials. Have these goals been met?

Make the Racing Product Better Throughout the Race

What stage racing attempts to create is different points payouts throughout the race so that drivers race hard earlier in the race. Under the old race format, drivers would race hard throughout the race, but the incentive was not there on lap 80 of a 267-lap race to fight so hard for a position. Instead, drivers would simply let faster drivers go and try to get them back if they could improve their car.

Now, there are plenty of instances where stages create exciting moments throughout the race. One such example was in 2017 when Martin Truex Jr. battled Kyle Larson for a stage win at the Southern 500, a notoriously long race. This battle would likely not be that intense if there were not stage points on the line at the end of the lap.

It also adjusted how pit strategy was done throughout the race as well. Instead of strategies to get drivers to the end of the race, teams would find ways to get stage points, which is why you see many teams pit halfway through stages on race tracks. However, on road courses, drivers and teams realized a loophole.

When pitting before the stage break ended, it allowed their drivers to get a better track position at the beginning of the next stage. This meant that teams had to choose between earning stage points or setting themselves up for better track positions later in the race.

Make the Regular Season Matter More

With the introduction of stage racing came the introduction of Playoff points. Drivers who won stages earned Playoff points plus 5 Playoff points for every race win. Playoff points have made a major impact on how the Playoffs play out.

This year, Martin Truex Jr., despite terrible Playoff performances, made his way all the way into the Round of 8 thanks to his Playoff points and being the Regular Season Champion. He also dominated the regular season in a similar fashion in 2017, and that went a long way toward him winning his Championship.

Now, stage points are far from the only thing that goes into Playoff points. First off, race wins earn more Playoff points than winning both stages in a race, and regular season points standings garner Playoff points as well. Still, with 104 Playoff points available through stage wins in the regular season, those can go a long way.

Give Broadcasters Set Commercial Time

Other sports have set times throughout a game that allow the TV broadcasters to play commercials. In baseball, it is the time between innings. In college basketball, dead balls after every 4-minute interval in a half trigger a media timeout.

Stage breaks allow NASCAR to take a media timeout of sorts. However, the broadcasters do not take the entire time just running commercials. With pit stops happening during pretty much every stage, they usually show that on TV, plus, with only two breaks, it does not eliminate commercial breaks during the race.

According to Jayski, 49 of the 249 minutes of the Daytona 500 broadcast featured full-screen commercials. Stage racing may help put more commercials during non-green flag racing, but, it does not solve the problem totally.

If NASCAR Gets Rid of Stages, What Is the Solution?

If stage racing is gone, some could argue the racing product could be better. The race not being broken up is something that some fans like. They do not like seeing the stage cautions break up the race, and some, such as Greg Hartman, argue for stage racing with no yellows.

If stage racing were abandoned, then that would take away 104 potential Playoff points for drivers to earn during the regular season. However, that does not mean any changes to the Playoff points for race wins. Therefore, there still will be opportunities for drivers to earn Playoff points without stages.

Now, the commercials idea is a bit of a tougher sticking point. Regardless of how much of an impact it truly has on commercials cutting into green flag racing, it is a time during the race when broadcasters know they can advertise. Without stage racing, that cannot exist because NASCAR cannot predict when “Natural” caution flags will come out.

When NASCAR got rid of stage racing on road courses, Sonoma, Watkins Glen, and Indianapolis combined for 4 caution flags. Maybe NASCAR could implement that they do more non-stop coverage during the race, or, they can implement more sponsored segments throughout the race. However, that still means a cutaway from normal race coverage.

Stage racing has its purpose, but it is not totally popular. Is there a better solution, or is stage racing the best solution for NASCAR as of right now?

Circle B Diecast Push Down

Let us know what you think

Join the conversation on socials

Share this:

Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts