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?
Five practice sessions, two qualifying sessions, and one 300-mile event was not enough for officials at Texas Motor Speedway when it comes to a second racing groove on the newly repaved and reconfigured track.
Officials at Texas will run the Texas Tire Monster and the Kentucky Tire Dragon, which came overnight from Sparta, Kentucky to Fort Worth Texas, to help facilitate the movement of a second groove.
The Texas Tire Monster lays down rubber using heigh weight with highly cambered tires to put rubber on the track, but relies on the sun and heat for it to work. However, the Kentucky Tire Dragon creates heat through friction to grind the rubber into the track.
From now til race time, more rubber. pic.twitter.com/uW2hV0gg5F— Texas Motor Speedway (@TXMotorSpeedway) April 8, 2017
Officials will run both machines from 10 p.m. CST to 1:00 a.m. CST and then resume at 6:00 a.m. CST until the start of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
Officials will also use the Team Texas Driving School, which is slated to run laps around the track from 6:30 p.m. CST to 10:00 p.m. CST, to help facilitate rubber lay down in the higher grooves.
The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 from Texas Motor Speedway will be live on FOX and Performance Racing Network at 1:30 p.m. EST. The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will consist of 334 laps broken down into two stages of 85 laps and the final stage consisting of 164 laps.
Texas Motor Speedway looks different for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series this weekend during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 and the My Bariatric Solutions 300.
Over the offseason, Texas repaved and redesigned the first and second turns. The first two turns have decreased from 24 degrees of banking to 21 degrees, while also expanding the width to 80 feet.
There were no Goodyear tire tests ran at Texas due to the repaving project finishing a few weeks ago. However, the plans are for Goodyear to use the same tire compound used at Kentucky Speedway, last year.
Cup teams will have nearly two and a half hours of practice time on Friday an a hour and 45 minute session on Saturday. Xfinity teams will have two hours and 20 minutes of practice on Friday before their race on Saturday.
Chris Buescher was the only driver to make laps on the new surface at Texas. While making those laps, Buescher’s cinematography held numerous drivers see the changes at the track. However, the video was only meant for Buescher and his JTG Daugherty Racing team.
“I’m not sure who posted it or how it got there, but I wish I had thought of that. I was trying to help our team, not everybody. But, it kind of worked out that way. We were here right after the Vegas race before they had lines on the track and just taking a look. I think the speedway did a pretty good job of paving it. It was extremely smooth,” said Buescher on Friday before practice.
When the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, the caution quickly fell as Denny Hamlin spun into turns one and two. Kyle Busch tagged the outside wall in turns one and two, but was able to fix the primary car. Things did not go so well for Erik Jones and Chase Elliott. Jones was coming off the fourth turn before his car went towards the wall resulting in a backup car. Elliott was coming off of the second turn before he spun and crashed into the outside wall before working his way to the inside wall for more damage, also going to a backup car.
Drivers were on edge during the practice session and many called the track “sketchy” throughout.
As the session progressed, speeds continued to increase as more rubber was being laid onto the racing surfacee. Before his spin, Hamlin laid down a lap at 174.053 MPH. After two hours and 27 minutes of practice, Ryan Blaney was fastest at 194.182 mph, Michael McDowell was second fastest at 194.056 mph, Buescher was third fastestest at 193.361 mph, Jones was fourth fastest at 193.154 mph, and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top-five at 192.836 mph. Over 1,000 laps were run by drivers in the session.
In 2016, the first practice session of the weekend at Texas saw Martin Truex Jr. fastest at 192.892 mph. In qualifying last year, Brian Vickers laid down the fastest speed in the first round at 196.014 mph.
The notes from previous years are no longer valid at Texas as the playing field becomes equal with the repave.
Bellator MMA announced earlier today that they partnered with NASCAR and Monster Energy to have a boxing ring in the midway on racedays.
Hours later, that statement from Bellator was retracted, despite being retweeted numerous times on Twitter, with the words “details to come”.
The initial announcement from Bellator mentioned that the boxing ting would be at the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in October, and the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Here is the first announcement:
Bellator partners w/ Monster Energy & NASCAR for series of fights at select races during the 2017 season starting in Charlotte pic.twitter.com/FwLxLgDN1U— Chris Pursell (@VegasandVine) April 3, 2017
Bellator and Monster Energy have had similar activations across Monster Energy AMA Supercross in recent years.
NASCAR has released a statement about this new deal.
“NASCAR does not have a partnership with Bellator.”
This announcement comes off the heels of the Joey Logano and Kyle Busch incident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
On April 4th, Bellator MMA re-released the press release that has no mention of NASCAR. However, it mentions that this is a Monster deal, not a NASCAR deal. Bellator mentioned that they would be part of the fan-activation on the midway, exclusively for those at select tracks, which have yet to be released.
RIDGEWAY, Va.— Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch had at it during Sunday’s running of the STP 500.
In the second stage of the race, that ran from laps 130 to 260, Busch was setting a blistering pace lapping the field up to 17th position.
Early in the stage as Busch was about to lap Stenhouse Jr., but Stenhouse did not help but put on a fight with Busch. Stenhouse was not happy with Busch and was going to let him know it the next chance he got.
The opportunity for Stenhouse came on the final lap of stage two. Stenhouse was able to get to the bumper of Busch. Busch went higher than normal in the fourth turn because he was running a lane above where the rubber was being laid down. Stenhouse went low on Busch sending him up the racetrack. Stenhouse was able to get his lap back, and give Chase Elliott the stage win and playoff point.
After the race, Stenhouse mentioned that he had to do it for his team and sponsors to stay on the lead lap.
However, Busch had a different story to tell after the conclusion of the race.
“I actually was rolling into Turn 3 and was kind of going higher out of my way in order to let the 17 back by and give him the lap. That was my intent, and then he just drove through me. It cost me my spot to the 24, so I was hoping the I could rn off the corner side by side with the 17 and keep the 24 at bay and just keep my nose in front of his and be able to score the segment, and I was trying to be a nice guy, but nice guys don’t finish first,” said Busch.
Busch mentioned that he felt disrespected by Stenhouse as he was banging him (Busch) into the corners. Busch also mentions that this incident will come back and bite Stenhouse at a later date.
“You’ve just got to remember race car drivers are like elephants; they remember everything.”
Busch finished second in the STP 500, while Stenhouse Jr finished 10th.