CHARLOTTE, N.C. — OK everyone, let’s take a deep breath and we’ll get through this.
NASCAR announced enhancements to the race formats on Monday that are intended to give fans more exciting moments during a race and the season.
As with anything new, there are plenty of questions. Here are answers to those questions.
So what is it with these stages?
Each NASCAR race will be divided into three stages. Points will be awarded for the top 10 finishers in each of the first two stages. That descends one point per position. Thus, 10th place in a stage receives one point. The final stage marks the end of the race. The winner receives 40 points with second-place receiving 35 points, third gets 34 points … on the way down to 1 point for any driver that finishes 36th or worse.
When will these stages take place?
The first stage will take place approximately 25 percent into the full race distance. So, for a 400-lap race at Richmond, the first stage would end somewhere around Lap 100.
The second stage will take place about 25 percent later.
That will leave the last half of the race to be run to conclusion.
So what happens after the first stage?
Once the field completes the lap that marks the end of the first stage, the caution will come out. Pit road is then opened for any teams that wish to stop. Once the pit stops are complete, TV will go to commercial break so fans can see more green-flag racing. Once TV returns from break, the race will resume. NASCAR estimates the breaks should take about five minutes.
How do they align the field for the next stage?
The field lines up the way the cars come off pit road. If not every car pits, then they are at the front with cars that made pit stops behind them for the restart.
OK, so what about those caution laps after the segment ends? Do they count?
Yes. All laps count.
Anything else unique about the stages?
Yes, pit road will be closed for five laps before each of the first two stages end.
Wait, what if there’s a caution right before the end of a segment? Can a segment end under caution or will it be extended?
Segments can end under caution. The end of the race will still have the overtime policy.
What is NASCAR calling these stages?
Stage 1. Stage 2. Stage 3.
What about the Daytona 500?
The 500 will have segments. The top 10 finishers in each of the duel qualifying races will receive points just like a regular segment. One difference is that the segment winner will not receive a bonus point for the playoff (more on these a little further down).
So what is the maximum number of points a driver can earn in any race now?
A driver can earn as many as 60 points. That would be 20 points for the two stage wins (10 points each) and 40 points for the race win.
Wait a minute, you’re forgetting those points for leading a lap and leading the most laps, aren’t you?
No. There will no longer be bonus points for leading a lap or leading the most laps.
Isn’t there a way the race winner can score fewer points than the runner-up?
Yes. Consider if the race runner-up won both stages (20 points) and then had their 35 points for second. That would be 55 points. Say the race winner failed to score a point in either stage. Thus, they would have only 40 points (for the win) for the event. So, the runner-up could score 55 points and the winner 40 points.
What else was announced?
The regular-season points leader after the 26th race will be rewarded — something many fans had requested.
How will the regular-season champ be rewarded?
The regular-season winner will receive 15 bonus points that carry over to their total once the playoff field has its points reset to 2000.
Is that it?
No, the top 10 drivers leading into the playoffs will receive a bonus. The second-place driver in the standings after the regular season ends will earn 10 playoff points, third place will earn eight points, fourth place will get seven points and so on. All playoff points carry through to the end of the Round of 8.
OK, is that it?
No, NASCAR has made those bonus points more valuable. Follow me. Say a driver finishes with six wins in the regular season. They would earn 30 playoff bonus points (five wins for each win). Now, say, they won seven segments in the regular season, they would have seven bonus points (one playoff point for each segment win). And, let’s say they finished as the regular-season champ, earning 15 bonus points. That means they would have 52 bonus points (30 from wins plus seven from segments and 15 for regular-season crown).
The driver will continue to receive those bonus points in each round of the playoffs as long as he/she remained eligible for the title — plus any additional victory or segment points earned in that round.
Anything else I should be aware of?
Yes, NASCAR is now using the word “playoffs” to describe its run to the championship instead of Chase. As Dale Earnhardt Jr. joked: “I think that for all the folks that have been asking us to get rid of the Chase for years, this is a great day for them.’’
Are these changes for the Cup Series only?
No, they are for the Cup, Xfnity and Camping World Truck Series.
What were some things the drivers said about all of this?
Denny Hamlin: There are no off weeks. Every single race matters. Not only that, but every lap of every race matters. From our standpoint, you always felt a little bit relaxed once you got a race win, and you would sometimes maybe go into test mode or something. Now with each accomplishment that you have during each given race, whether you’re collecting points for the overall regular season or you’re trying to collect points through a stage win or a race win, each accomplishment gives your road to Homestead a little bit easier, gives you a little bit of cushion there to be able to get through the playoffs and make it to Homestead, and that’s what it’s all about for us is making it to Homestead and trying to race for a championship.’’
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “I love the fact that the bonus points or the playoff points will carry through the playoffs all the way to the last round. So everything you do throughout the season is really going to help you throughout the playoffs. That’s a great change.
Brad Keselowski: “Wait until you see it on the racetrack.When you see this on the racetrack, this is going to be the best racing you’ve ever seen.’’