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NASCAR Stage Racing Paying Off

By on July 1, 2017
NASCAR

FANS WARMING UP TO HARD-CHARGING, ON-TRACK ACTION

When NASCAR announced stage racing, you could hear the collective chorus of preseason moans and groans from diehard fans. Perhaps you were among them. Well, many fans have changed their tune as the season has progressed through the first 12 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points races. More than 45% of RoadKing readers indicate they regularly follow NASCAR racing, a field goal higher than NFL football, the clear king of the ratings mountain for all sports among the general population.

In collaboration with industry stakeholders (e.g. TV and radio networks, sponsors/advertisers, team owners, NASCAR drivers’ council, race team members, and fans), NASCAR established an enhanced competition format that was implemented in all three national series—the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Emphasizing aggressive racing, increasing the sense of urgency, and opening doors to strategy options, the new race format is intended to deliver more dramatic moments over the course of each race and the entire season, with 26-race, regular season championship points and 10-race playoff points on the line throughout.

Format Recap

Just to recap, the enhanced format consists of the following:

  • Races consist of three stages, with championship implications in each stage. The only exception was the four-stage Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte on May 28.
  • The top-10 finishers in each of the first two stages are awarded additional championship points on a descending scale, with the stage winner receiving 10 points, second receiving 9 points, and so on.
  • The winner of the first two stages of each race will also receive one playoff point, and the race winner will receive five playoff points. Each playoff point will be added to his or her reset total following the 26th race at Richmond on September 9, if that competitor makes the playoffs.
  • All playoff points will carry through to the end of the third round of the playoffs (Round of 8), with the Championship 4 racing straight up at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19 for the title.
  • The race winner following the final stage receives 40 points, second-place receives 35, third-place 34, fourth-place 33, and so on.

“Simply put, this will make great racing even better,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO when making the announcement. “I’m proud of the unprecedented collaboration from our industry stakeholders, each of whom had a common goal—strengthening the sport for NASCAR fans. This is an enhancement fully rooted in teamwork, and the result will be an even better product every single week.”

Bonus Structure

NASCAR also established a playoff bonus structure that will see the points leader after the second Richmond race honored as the regular season champion, earning 15 playoff points that will be added to the driver’s playoff reset of 2,000. In addition, the top-10 drivers in points leading into the playoffs will receive playoff points, with second place receiving 10 playoff points, third place will earn 8 points, fourth place will receive 7 points, and so on. All playoff points will count in the totals through the Round of 8. Then the top four are the only ones eligible to win the full season championship in the one-race shootout.

“These are enhancements that the NASCAR fan has long sought, and the entire industry has worked hard to develop a better racing format for our fans,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “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 making the playoffs and winning or losing a championship.”

On-Track Impact

After the first 12 races of 2017, nine drivers have locked themselves into spots in the playoff as follows:

Wins & Drivers

2  Jimmie Johnson

2  Brad Keselowski

2  Martin Truex, Jr.

1  Austin Dillon

1  Kurt Busch

1  Kyle Larsen

1  Joey Logano

1  Ryan Newman

1  Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Almost as important to several other drivers, the bonus points they’ve earned during the first two stages of some races have helped keep them in the hunt for a playoff spot despite some poor finishes. Drivers who’ve benefitted so far include:

  • Ryan Blaney
  • Kyle Busch
  • Chase Elliott
  • Kevin Harvick
  • Denny Hamlin
  • Erik Jones
  • Matt Kenseth
  • Jamie McMurray

While at least a portion of the jury is still out, many positive signs are emerging that the fans like stage racing and the opportunities their favorite drivers have to earn bonus points, even if taken out by the “Big One,” a little one, a blown engine, a flat tire, a penalty or some other misfortune. Hard-charging, door-to-door battles are the kinds of on-track action that keep fans glued to their seats and coming back for more.

More Information

nascar.com for the latest on all three NASCAR national series.

jayski.com for NASCAR and other racing insights and updates not found elsewhere.

racing-reference.info for driver, owner and crew chief statistics and much more.

Visit these sites to stay up to date on all the latest NASCAR news.

 

FANS’ REACTIONS

While initial fan reactions were mixed, some online quotes indicate fans are warming up to these format changes.

“I kinda’ get the change and it isn’t horrible, mainly three segmented flags and extra points. Just have to watch and see.”

“NASCAR is bringing back that overall performance counts. I love that. I think this will be a great change for our sport.”

“I think this change is great for fans. Looking forward to seeing how this plays out. Kudos to NASCAR for trying something new.”

“Reminds me of long races on short tracks with a break to refuel and change tires. It’s given fans a reason to stay engaged through segments one and two to the end.”

“I was skeptical at first. NASCAR has made a lot of changes in recent years. I think they’ve finally landed on a format that will stand the test of time.”

“If you like hard-charging action along with a little beatin’ and bangin’, this new format is more fun to watch in person and on TV.”

“Way to go NASCAR! After doing a whole lot of tinkering—remember the car of tomorrow—you seem to be onto something that will attract more fans.

“I’m a wait-and-see guy. I’ve waited, I’ve seen. I like the stage concept along with the bonus points for on-track performance.”

“If you participate in race pools with your buddies, now you’ve got a few more things to bet on, and a few more things to cheer about or cry about.”

“Anyone who thinks the racing isn’t better should take a good look at history. Lots of cars on the lead lap. Lots of cars battling for position, just to gain an in-race point or two.”

“The Monster Energy Girls are FAN… TASTIC! The racin’s pretty hot too.”

“I predict we’ll look back on the 2017 season as the one that helped NASCAR turn things around.”

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