Not going to happen folks; the Chase is here to stay (and adds a lot of excitement to the season, and more hope for drivers seeking to win the Cup), and the stages are here to stay too.
One criticism that naysayers have is that the stages encourage wrecks at the end of each stage, and they would point to the multiple incidents this weekend at proof.
I hate to break it to you, but those wrecks were just a product of hard racing because these drivers want to win races, especially the Daytona 500. Take away the stages, you’ll still have a ton of hard racing and a bunch of wrecks at Daytona – and at most other tracks too. To deny that is to deny basic reality. The only difference is the wreck might have happened at a different time in the race. The difference is simply semantics.
The goal of the stages is to encourage drivers to seek a high running position throughout the race, and not hang back. This was often an issue in the restrictor plate races, and you saw very little of it this past weekend. So the new format did its job. Period.
You can’t blame it for the wrecks, but I can guarantee it will make the races this season much more fun to watch. I know I enjoyed the competition this weekend, and if you look past the wrecks you’ll see there was some great racing in all three series.
I view it as a couple of heat races in the beginning followed by an A-main race. And if you’ve ever watched racing at your local track in this format, you know it’s a blast. I’m glad to see it on the big stage of NASCAR.
My take on damaged car rule
I also have to address the new damaged car rule, which gives teams five minutes on pit road to complete repairs after an accident before returning to the track. Go over five minutes, or head to the garage, and your day is done. That rule bit a ton of people this weekend in all three series, when in the past they might have made fixes and returned to the track to try to make up some points.
I had a few questions on this rule heading into the season, some of which were addressed this weekend.
n “If there are big wrecks at plate tracks early, is NASCAR OK with running only a dozen cars all race, or will there be an exception made?”
As we saw all three races this weekend, NASCAR is OK with having fewer cars out there, and I am too. There’s little to gain by having a ruined racecar on the track trailing the leaders, other than the creation of more cautions from parts flying off it.
n “If no chance to come out If you go to garage, losing chance to gain those valuable points after wrecks will hurt some in championship battle.”
While technically this is true, the new rules on stages allow for many other ways for points to be made. For example, in Trucks and Xfinity we saw early segment leaders crash out late in the race, but still be rewarded in the point standings for running up front early. That ability to earn more bonus points early balances out the lack of opportunity to come back to the race after going to the garage.
n “With the outcome of an accident meaning race is over, will there be less hard racing between contenders?”
Obviously, the answer to that is a big, fat NO … as we saw today. They were racing harder than ever. I don’t expect that to change.
Long story short: Calm down everyone – the rule is not a big deal. It’s not going to ruin anyone’s season.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.