NASCAR introduced stages during races in 2017, dividing races into three sections: stage 1, 2, and the final stage. And, in a society where almost everyone’s attention span is shrinking by the day, a long, four-hour race divided into stages is a huge help.
The Daytona 500, which ushers in a new era of racing for NASCAR, is also split into stages. Here’s everything you have to know about these stages.
What Is the Daytona 500?
The Daytona 500 annual stock-car race in the United States is the most prestigious affair in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (also called NASCAR) season. The race has been held in Daytona Beach, Florida, at the Daytona International Speedway every February since 1959, and it consists of 200 laps around a 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) tri-oval track.
NASCAR’s popularity reached unprecedented heights at the turn of the century, and the Daytona 500 became among the highest-rated and most-attended sporting events in the United States. Cale Yarborough, Jeff Gordon, Richard Petty (whose father, Lee, scored the inaugural race in 1959), and Dale Earnhardt, who perished after crashing in the 2001 race, are among the notable drivers who have won at Daytona.
The race is an extension of the shorter races hosted on the Daytona Beach Road Course. The long square was partly on the sand and next to the highway beach. Earlier events showcased 200-mile (320-kilometer) stock car races.
In 1959, Daytona International Speedway hosted a 500-mile (805-kilometer) stock car race. Following the annual Southern 500, it’s the second 500-mile NASCAR race, which has been held every year since. By 1961, it had earned the moniker “Daytona 500,” which it still bears today.
Daytona International Speedway is 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long, with 200 laps required to complete a 500-mile race. From 1959 to 2016, the race was recognized officially after halfway (250 miles/100 laps) was completed. When stage racing was introduced in 2017, the race was deemed official after Stage 2 (300 miles/120 laps) was completed.
In 2020, they changed the rule that a race is considered official when it reaches halfway or the end of Stage 2. (whatever comes first, in this instance, halfway). The race has been cut short four times because of rain (in 1965-1966, 2003, and 2009) and once due to the 1974 energy crisis.
The race has gone over 500 miles ten times since the adoption of the green-white-checkered finish rule in 2004. (2005-2007, 2010-2012, 2015, and 2018-2020). The race was completed in two attempts, in 2010-2011 and 2020. The 2020 Daytona 500 will be the longest run, with 209 laps/522.5 miles.
The Daytona 500 Has How Many Laps?
The “500” in Daytona 500’s name refers to the mileage, not the number of laps. The Daytona International Speedway’s 2 1/2-mile track is ideal for a 200-lap race that takes approximately 3 1/2 hours to complete.
The track is one of three that host NASCAR Cup Series races, the other two being the Indianapolis Superspeedway and the Talladega Superspeedway.
What Are the Daytona 500 Stages?
The Daytona 500 is divided into three sections. It consists of 200 laps divided into three stages: 65 laps, 65 laps, and 70 laps. The race is 500 miles long since the Daytona International Speedway track is 2.5 miles long.
Each stage is divided by a caution period, and drivers who finish among the top ten of the first two stages receive points. The victor of the first two stages receives 10 points in addition to one playoff point; second place receives nine points, third place receives eight points, and so on.
The race winner receives five playoff points in addition to 40 race points at the end of the final stage. Second place receives 35 points, the third receives 34 points, the fourth receives 33 points, and so on until 36th-40th receives one point.
NASCAR rules permit the race to be extended to finish under green. If the caution comes out with one lap to go, NASCAR will extend the race to try and get two successive green-flag laps to the finish. However, if the caution is out after the leader has taken the white flag (indicating the final lap), the race will not be restarted, and the leader is declared the winner at the time of the caution.
In 2019, stage racing was introduced. The top ten winners in the first two stages receive bonus points: the first placer receives ten points, the second placer receives nine points, the third placer receives eight points, and so on through tenth place.
The qualifying procedure for the Daytona 500 is unique. Some teams must compete to make the Daytona 500 field. The first row is determined by a timed qualifying round hosted a week before the race (two rounds before 2003; three before 2001).
Two separate qualifying races determine the remaining field (100 miles (160 kilometers) from 1959 to 1967; 125 miles (201 kilometers) from 1969 to 2004; and 150 miles (240 kilometers) with two-lap overtime, if needed, beginning in 2005 (these races weren’t held in 1968 because of rain). The top two qualifying race drivers who weren’t in the top 35 in owner points were provided spots on the field, and the remainder of the field was determined by the final standings of the duels, with guaranteed spots going to those in the top 35.
Top qualifying times of racers who weren’t yet in the field from the qualifying race filled the remaining spots, 40 to 43. If a preceding NASCAR champion were not already in the field, he would be given one of the four spots, or the fourth-fastest car would be added to the field.
Before 2005, and starting again in 2013, the top fourteen autos in the qualifying races advanced to the field, and then the fastest six (1998-2003), eight (1995-97, 2004), or ten (until 1994) cars that didn’t advance from the qualifying race were added. Then, the top 35 in owner points which are not locked into the race, and finally the racer with the championship provisional, except for 1985 when no car was qualified for a provisional starting position, the only time that occurred in the Daytona 500 from 1976 to 2004.
Why Do These Stages Matter?
You may find yourself frequently asking this question. These stages are important because the top ten drivers earn bonus race points at the end of every stage, and stage winners receive an extra playoff point.
These race points can be crucial later in the season when racers attempt to punch their way into the playoffs, as can playoff points when drivers advance through the postseason. Don’t be surprised if the drivers go all out at the end of each stage.
Every driver has a caution break at the end of each stage. Usually, they enter the pits and prepare for the next stage. Drivers will probably leave the pit road with a tank full of gas and a new tire set to assist them in getting through the next stage.