NASCAR racing has been around for too long for the world to witness its growth from being the commoner’s bootleg race to becoming an elite, nationally recognized motorsport. Its first few years were a massive success – pulling thousands after thousands of fans across the US, especially right after its live TV broadcast in 1979. The zooming race vehicles along with chain crashes here and there on the tracks of Daytona and later on other race tracks intensified the already extreme competition, and that proved to be the sport’s number one selling point to secure its future.
In the later years, however, the record shows that NASCAR racing is faced with an alarming decline in viewership and fans despite its effort to please the crowd. As older NASCAR celebrities retire and go out of the picture, the sport experienced challenges in building new fandoms or even earning back those whom it lost. The sport has to evolve into something fresh, something with a higher entertainment value. With this in mind, NASCAR had introduced a new race format, stage racing, that would cover all 36 races on NASCAR’s schedule.
To discuss these stages, let us take the Daytona 500, one of NASCAR’s main events, for example. In 2020, NASCAR introduced its latest stage racing format for the said event. What are these stages, and how do these stages affect the overall result of the game? Let’s find out.
In the earlier months of 2020, NASCAR announced to the press the length of each race stage and the corresponding points to be awarded to the top finishers. All NASCAR races are composed of three stages all-in-all, with the single exception of the Coca-Cola 600 in May of the same year, which has four stages instead.
In Daytona 500, for example, Stage 1 consists of 65 laps, that is, Lap 1 – 65. Stage 2 comprise of 65 laps as well (Lap 66 to 130), and Stage 3 composes 70 laps (Lap 131 – 200). When the green flag is waved, the race on. As you may notice, stages 1 and 2 are equal and the same, comprising roughly 50% – 60% of the entire race. Stage 3, on the other hand, covers the remaining half, which might imply that this stage is the most crucial and competitive as it awards the highest points. But don’t be fooled – the first two stages can also be tricky. The first two stages are strategic times for race teams to decide when to pit, when to chill or a bit, and when to step on the gas to gain the lead.
Take note that the number of laps varies depending on the race event and track it is being held as they, too, vary in terms of nature and length.
In Stages 1 and 2, the drivers who finish in the top ten will be awarded points according to their standing. For each of the two stages, the top finisher receives 10 points plus one playoff point. The second receives nine, the third gets eight, and so on until the tenth gets one point. Check out how this point system work.
- First 10 (+1)
- Second 9
- Third 8
- Fourth 7
- Fifth 6
- Sixth 5
- Seventh 4
- Eighth 3
- Ninth 2
- Tenth 1
This means that when you top both of the first two stages, you will get 22 points in the lead. However, that does not necessarily mean that you are guaranteed to win the race as it is roughly just the beginning – it is highly possible that the top finishers of the first two stages may no longer lead or even finish the race in the last stage at all!
In the final stage (Stage 3), when the black-and-white checkered flag is waved, signaling the end of the race, the driver who finishes first gets a staggering 40 points and an additional five playoff points – that’s a 10-point advantage to the second placer of the stage which is awarded only 35 points. The third gets 34 points, and the fourth gets 33, so on and so forth until 36th-40th finishers who are all awarded with only one point. The final stage determines the race results, and points are awarded accordingly.