When it was announced prior to the season that NASCAR would move to a stage based system whereas breaking the race up into stages to create more memorable moments or create in-race moments in which fans will want to tune-in to watch was meant to be something different, in effect stemming the tide of those not tuning in on the weekends.
However we are at the halfway point in the season with the new system in place but concerns weekly from fans still frustrated with the amount of caution laps that it takes to reset the field to get back under green, lengthier events overall, and changing of the lap stages creating confusion.
One other thing that the stages have produced that no one thought may have been possible is someone like Martin Truex winning on a consistent basis not only events themselves but stages mounting up regular season ending points that can carry him though the playoffs here in 2017.
A system that has now sees the broadcasters calling into other drivers on the track during the stage breaks as the premise was the interview the stage winner during the caution period.
When you have a driver consistently winning it becomes increasingly hard for a broadcaster in an event to ask them the same questions not only in the same race but weekly.
Steve O’Donnell went on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to discuss the stage racing in 2017 say in part.
“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. A lot of those things will be on the table for us but continue to be real enthusiastic how those are playing out.’’
As an industry it’s always been about how to incentive drivers and creating a better on track product for fans at the track and those who tune-in on the weekends to watch NASCAR racing.
One thing that needs and should be considered is keeping things simple.
Like how about instead of stage based racing to create those moments and slowing the moment during the race we can use tools already at hand.
For example, qualifying points to the top-10 or possibly 15 weekly. Along with that using a concept I think is good from the stage racing, reward points at the halfway point to the top-10 drivers as well as that point to the halfway leader for the playoff.
Go back to running true marquee events such as the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500 where these are double point events, which on top of all other awarded points the full field is rewarded with a second set of points at the halfway point with the one garnering the most points and not in the playoffs gets an automatic bid. See again you are rewarding drivers without much effort.
Finally, for creating some of those memorable moments in-race as the stage based racing has done. It’s time to start taking sets of tires away from teams issued on the weekends. Why is it that teams need dozens in some cases for a full weekend of practice, qualifying and racing?
Instead issue a weekend allotment in which the team can use however they want, from the time it rolls off the hauler till the end of the event. Have teams declare which amount will be used as scuffs and will be sticker tires with the caveat of each tire may be used once, no re-gluing lugs, no tricks just strictly tire management.
Simple things all well within reach can be achieved to create those memorable moments and create that on-track racing product we strive to better for those buying tickets and watching at home.