When NASCAR announced the idea of stage racing at NASCAR Media Tour in January, they mentioned that there would be time between the start of one stage and the next for TV and radio to hit commercials, pit stops, the chance to interview the driver and crew chief before the start of the next stage, and then hit another commercial before the race resumes under green conditions.
However, the laps between the completion of the stage and the start of the new one count. This caused much uproar among the NASCAR fan base.
After seven races of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Speedway Digest takes a look at the time it takes for the first and second stage to go to completion together. NASCAR mentioned at Media Tour that the breaks would be roughly five minutes each. Is that the case?
At Daytona International Speedway, the stage breaks lasted for 10 laps total, equating to 0.36 hours or 21.8 minutes. The laps accounted for 5.5 percent of the race.
At Atlanta Motor Speedway, the stage breaks lasted 13 laps, equating to 0.364 hours or 21.84 minutes. The laps accounted for four percent of the race.
At Las Vegas Motor Speedway (400 miles) and Texas Motor Speedway (500 miles), both 1.5 miles in length, the stage breaks lasted 12 laps, equating to 0.324 hours or 19.44 minutes. At Las Vegas, the breaks accounted for 4.5 percent of the race, while Texas’ stage breaks accounted for 3.6 percent of the race.
At Phoenix Raceway, the stage breaks lasted for 12 laps, equating to .26 hours or 15.6 minutes. The breaks abounded for 4.8 percent of the race.
At Auto Club Speedway, the stage breaks went for 12 laps, equating to 0.327 hours or 22.32 minutes. The breaks accounted for 5.9 percent of the race.
At Martinsville Speedway, the stage breaks lasted for 22 laps, equating to 0.33 hours or 19.8 minutes. The breaks accounted for 4.4 percent of the race.
Stage racing has added flavor and flare to the middle portions of the events. However, NASCAR is looking at ways to transform the stages in the future.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, joined Mike Bagley and Pete Pistone on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” to talk about stage racing and its future.
“Those caution laps, running just laps off, do they have to count? The break is put into place to allow for commercial breaks and to allow some of those green-flag breaks that we’ve seen in the past not to occur. So we want to look at how do we make this still a strategy and possibly not count those caution laps in the future. That would be for 2018 and see how it plays out throughout the year,” said O’Donnell.
The idea of not counting the laps in the stage breaks was brought up for this year, but officials decided otherwise.
“We debated that for a long time,’’ he told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The one reason we didn’t go that route was that we didn’t want to extend the races for a really long time and have the unknown fuel mileage if you continued not to count those (laps),” O’Donnell stated. “It was kind of TV and everybody, the tracks, sitting together and saying, look for year one let’s go with the known and that’s how many laps we’ve got for this race and then if we need to adjust we can. That’s definitely something you put on the notes and say hey, let’s look at possible solutions for next year if we can.’’
O’Donnell told ESPN that TV is now showing 18 to 20 percent more green flag racing due to the stage breaks, but they are looking at ways to become more efficient.
What should NASCAR do to make the stage racing even better?