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Rules, Stages, and Packages: What’s New at COTA This Year?

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NASCAR’s updated roadcourse package and the elimination of stage breaks highlight an upcoming weekend of what to pay attention to on the cars and on course.

Although discussed to great length during the Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix Raceway two weeks ago, the new short track package will apply to the festivities this weekend in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, and the NASCAR Cup Series at Circuit of the Americas. 

The Elimination of Stage Breaks on Roadcourses

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup roadcourse events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago Street Course (July 2), Indianapolis Roadcourse (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago Street Course (July 1), Indianapolis Roadcourse (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

Lastly, there will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at the Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

Standalone Xfinity and Truck Races Will Have Stage Breaks

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

Why No Stage Breaks?

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “[We] felt this [change] would bring some new storylines [in an event].”

The Short Track Package is the Roadcourse Package

NASCAR will introduce a different rules package for 11 tracks this season in hopes of a better racing product at short tracks and road courses.

The changes will be in effect for all six Cup Series road course races and the majority of tracks 1.058 miles or less. Included is Phoenix Raceway, the site of the championship finale.

The changes to Next Gen are:

  • 2-inch spoiler (from 4 inches)
  • The removal of 3 diffuser strakes and engine panel strakes

Wet Weather Package

The wet weather package used on road courses features treaded Goodyear rain tires as well as a windshield wiper, flaps behind the wheels, and updated rain lights on the back of the car. 

Two rectangular shaped lights would be mounted inside the rear window and two would also be mounted below the rear bumper and diffuser, which would flash in wet conditions but then stay solid under braking. This will help trailing drivers to have a better sense of when a car in front of them is braking in low visibility.

Just make sure to not leave your blinker on like this guy…

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Nick Brand

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