NASCAR – Stages at Road Courses Fails the Test

So you know, I’m not a card carrying member of the “I hate stages in NASCAR. In fact, I think they’ve gone a long way in ensuring the best drivers are racing at Homestead in Miami for the Monster Energy Cup Championship. The stages have also given us some pretty good mid-race excitement as well. You might actually call me a fan of the stages.

Stages at Road Courses Fails the Test

Now that we have that out of the way, I don’t like the stages on a road course. What makes stage racing intriguing is the different strategies teams can use during the race. When to pit? How often do you need to pit? Two tires vs four? All of these different strategies were for the most part taken away by the stages?

The very fact that strategy played a key role in Martin Truex Jr. taking home the checkered flag is what often racing on road courses often produces. There was a script that most of the contenders were following most of the race. Pit just before the pits close at the end of the stage. Rinse, lather and repeat. Yawn.

Outside of short tracks, road racing has often produced some of the most compelling races. I personally love them. It’s not so much about the side by side action and passing you see at many short tracks. It’s about the different strategies and the suspense created by crew chiefs and teams. The stages have all but neutered the teams’ ability to utilize strategies to gain track position.

One of my favorite NASCAR Reporters, Jeff Gluck, takes a “Was it a good race poll” after every race. Now I understand fans can be fickle but I’ve found this poll to be a pretty decent gauge of the entertainment value of a particular race. At last count only 48% of the fans who voted felt the race this weekend at Sonoma was a good race. For NASCAR, like your school final exams, 48% is not gonna cut it.

On a beautiful early summer afternoon at a gorgeous facility in California’s NAPA Valley, with the greatest stock car drivers in the world, what should have been one of the seasons highlights, turned into a stinker.

I blame it all on the stages.

Thanks for reading. Listen to WTBQ radio on Monday and Friday morning at 8:45 as I join the gang on the Frank Truatt Morning Show discussing the world of NASCAR. Tune into 1110AM, 93.5FM, or streamed world-wide at WTBQ. You can follow me on twitter @Jimlaplante.

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