Midseason changes harm a sport’s credibility

The email subject from this morning seemed like a very late April Fools’ joke at first: “NASCAR Adds Fourth Stage to Coca-Cola 600.”

Oh no.

Look, I get what NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway are trying to do here. The 600 is a long race, and dividing it into four 100-lap stages will break it up and make it more entertaining. Last year’s 600 was brutal — with 131 straight green-flag laps at one point — and people hated the race.

And the stages have added a lot to the racing this year, so an extra stage is fine. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if all races had four stages next year.

But…ughhhhhh.

What NASCAR fails to understand (or at least value highly enough) is how bad it looks to change rules in the middle of a season. These are the type of temptations a sanctioning body should avoid, because they harm credibility — and that’s very difficult to earn back.

Personally, I’m still affected by the worst decision of all time — adding a 13th driver to a 12-driver playoff in 2013. NASCAR changed forever for me that day, and I can honestly say I’ve never looked at NASCAR as a sport quite the same after that.

The Coke 600 decision isn’t on that level, but the concept is similar: A short-term play could have a long-lasting impact on people who are desperately clinging to the notion NASCAR is more of a sport than sports entertainment.

Yes, the “pure sport” aspect has been gone for awhile now — I get that — but it’s painful to see NASCAR toss aside more of its credibility.

That’s what makes this the wrong move.

NASCAR announced stage lengths for every race on Feb. 16. It said each race would have the same amount of stage points and playoff points, except for the Daytona 500 (which had 10 more stage points — but not playoff points — thanks to the Duels).

Now — less than two weeks before the 600 — NASCAR has suddenly decided a certain race is worth more stage points than other races. And it’s worth more playoff points than any other race.

Think about that: Drivers can earn more playoff points in the Coke 600 than they can in the Daytona 500.

That’s very troubling for purposes of consistency. All races should pay the same amount of points. And if they don’t, NASCAR should announce that at the start of the season — not 13 days before the race.

It’s really disappointing NASCAR decided to do this. Want to add a fourth stage to one race for entertainment purposes? Then at least do it before the season. Announce it, let people digest it and come to terms with it.

But by doing it now, NASCAR misjudged what’s more valuable: One night at Charlotte or its credibility as a sanctioning body.

55 Replies to “Midseason changes harm a sport’s credibility”

  1. I agree 100%. If you want certain races to hold more value in terms of points, it needs to be decided before the season starts and not changed until after the season ends. I was never a big fan of the Chase/Playoffs/whatever we are calling it, but tolerated it. Adding a 13th driver hurt, and once Kyle won the Championship after missing 1/3 of the season, I have given up on the championship actually meaning something.

    1. Totally agree on the Kyle comment and have switched from catching most Nascar races to catching the trucks every race instead. I think Nascar will have their hands full keeping a fan base after this season once Jr is gone.

      1. While I don’t agree with Kyle’s comments after the Talledega race I do think that changing the rules in the middle of the season really suck!

    2. NASCAR had no choice but to do what they did in 2013. A team had intentionally manipulated the outcome of what set the playoff drivers. This was the equivalent of the say the Yankees throwing a game against Baltimore so the Orioles make the post season over the Red Sox. The only difference is in the stick and ball sports players who intentionally pull these stunts off are banned, NASCAR doesn’t operate that way.

      Granted after 2003 the Championship lost its luster over a season

      1. It brings to mind Harvick with a blown engine lining up for the last restart at Dega. That intentionally changed the playoffs. They did nothing!

  2. I guess I’m pretty indifferent to this change since the credibility of the Chase/Playoffs/whatever we are calling the format was shot in 2013 and all credibility was lost after 2015. This is definitely something that really should only be changed in between seasons, however, when you compare this to adding a 13th driver to the chase, or allowing Kyle Busch to win a championship after missing 1/3 of the season, this change is fairly minor.

  3. Absolutely agree. ALL the races should pay the same points. I expect as we get closer to Richmond if the points spread to so large as to have no fake drama that NASCAR will make it a double points race. I almost did not renew my suite tickets to AMS (Atlanta) this year since I fear what “enhancements” NASCAR will make to the races there after I have purchased the tickets. I am 57 years old and this is my 49 year of attending NASCAR races. And NO (HUGE NO), I do not want to have the races like those were 20, 30, or 40 years ago. But set the dates, formats and major rules a year in advance before we purchase the tickets and make travel plans. I already cancelled my plans to attend Oct Charlotte when it recently went away from night race.

  4. Really? You still think NASCAR has credibility? Seriously? We joke that the only consistent thing about NASCAR is it’s inconsistency.

    1. sorry, NOT a fan of “Stages”. nothing but guaranteed pit stops, takes the edge off of the crew chief having to make a decision, drivers deciding whether to pit or pass, etc. You want a BOOOORRRRRING race ?? this years Atlanta MSW event. People in the stands fell asleep…………………………………..asleep….

      so you can stuff these “Stages”.. NASCAR isnt even NASCAR anymore, its a parody of what it used to be. They take anyone to the “Big Red Truck” who shows some “personal interest” in someone who put them in a wall, spun them out, etc. THATS why you HAVE Fans NASCAR… DRIVERS COMPETING.. not simply driving Wind up toys around a track, hell, you could almost just put the whole thing on a timer and go ” beeeeeep” your done racing..
      be about as exciting as it is now

  5. Unlike you Jeff, I am not a fan of stage racing. I prefer the horses get out of the gate and run to the end.
    That NASCAR sees fit to continually alter the racing rules is disturbing, I realize some aspects need constant attention; however, this new alteration is nearly enough to boil my blood!

  6. NASCAR has become the laughing stock of sports, the only reason I’m still tuning in sometimes is to watch Jr. Once he retires I won’t tune in anymore.

  7. Changing the race format just a couple weeks before the race makes it seem like something is wrong with the original. If that’s true. What am I watching it? I’ll just wait until they have made up their minds. In the mean time I may find something better to do with that 5 hour block of time. Maybe work on my Legend car and listen to a ballgame.
    It’s a shame what my favorite sport has become.

  8. Apparently I’m on a island by myself here. I like the stage racing and don’t have a problem with them adding another stage. I’m sure they didn’t come out in February and announce it because they wanted to find out if the stage racing was going to have the positive reaction they were hoping for. It’s the longest race of the year and Charlotte is not the most exciting racing out there with the long green flag runs. They are trying to fix that. Granted it was announced only two weeks away from the race, but they are trying to make the racing better. The Daytona 500 still paid more points than this race will. At least NASCAR cares enough to try to us from getting bored with the racing on the track.

    1. Here, here! I’m all for an extra stage. I watched all of last year’s 600 and it was brutal. I’ve enjoyed the stage racing so far and I don’t mind NASCAR making an adjustment that they think is going to enhance the competition.

  9. The issue isn’t how changes like this hurts NASCAR’s credibility, they lost that with fans years ago when they decided to change the Championship formats every 2-3 years. This is really just the icing on the cake – continuing to separate the sport from the fan-base its hemorrhaging & desperately clinging to.

    Sports evolve, and thats fine. But from a fan’s perspective, what NASCAR is doing seems more like throwing s#it at the wall and hoping something sticks. Unfortunately, what they fail to realize is that what sticks is still s#it.

    u/ClarksonianPause

  10. TV talks a lot about stage points but I never see that they show how these points are influencing the standings. So I looked up the standings on NASCAR.com and as it turns out, stage points are making the standings very boring. And they are setting up a boring playoff picture as well. Won’t be surprised to see more tinkering to try to fix this “unforeseen” stage points problem.

  11. one thing is clear, NASCAR does not care the fact that its fans hate change. most fans still don’t understand the stage racing. so this will only add to their animosity. I am most curios as to the reason by this change. Did the fans, drivers, owners or track ask for this change?

  12. NFL is considering a change to their format. Each Monday they will announce how many quarters will be played in the following weekend’s games. Some games will be only three quarters, when no playoff-bound teams are involved, but when two top ranked teams are playing each other there will be five quarters, and tickets will sell for 20% extra. They call this “The NASCAR Flex Plan.”

    I call “The NASCAR Flex Plan” making stuff up as you go along. My buddies and I played games that way when we were six years old.

    1. I read that article on the NFL changes as well. You left off that when there is a full moon then the visiting team gets 7 points and if either team gets behind by more than 14 points they get 5 downs on offense. Also, in the last two minutes whichever team is behind gets the ball on the 50 yard line unless it’s the Monday night game in which case it’s the 40 yard line (that’s to keep people on the east coast from going to bed).

  13. I honestly forgot how massive a change NASCAR made for the 2013 Chase. They had to do something after so many teams tried to fix the standings, but they chose one groundbreaking option when they didn’t have to. But that’s NASCAR! The Chase has been the catalyst for all kinds of random changes without any grounding in logic.

  14. I’m amazed the sponsors haven’t put an end to this kind of inconsistency and attacks on the sport’s integrity from the leadership. After all, these companies and teams are investing millions and millions of dollars given a set of expectations. When you change those expectations on the fly, you create problems.

  15. How pathetic is it that NASCAR had to go to 12 slots to begin with after Junior and Jeff Gordon failed to make the Chase whatever year that was. How many are there now ? I can’t keep up. Why not add a couple of fan-voted Wild Card drivers while we’re at it? A 4th stage for the 600 actually makes a certain amount of sense for that particular race. But why not make 4 stages for all races? Oh yeah, that would be consistent. Ok, whatever you want to do NASCAR. But I am truly lost when it comes to qualifying now. They might as well do a lottery for starting positions.

  16. The championship has become arbitrary and, as a result, a joke. How many times has the formula changed since dingbat took over? With each change it means less. Now it’s just a one race shoot out and half the field makes it and, as others have pointed out, you don’t even need to run all the races anymore.

    So pick names out of hat, let fans vote on it, see which driver can spit the farthest, I don’t care anymore who the champion is anymore because it’s changed so many times it doesn’t mean anything. As far as I’m concerned every championship after 2003 should have an asterisk on it because it changed so often that there is no baseline to give it any meaning.

    I used to be a die-hard, money spending fan. Now I just watch the race like I would reruns of The Simpsons. It is no longer a sport, it’s just entertainment. Might as well be “Survivor” on wheels.

    BTW, I had no problem with last year’s 600. It was an HONEST race. No heavy handed manipulation in the name of entertainment. Ass-kickings are part of sports. Sometimes the game is over at the end of the first quarter in football, and sometimes a guy could lap the field in racing (unless the sanctioning body prevents it).

  17. I knew when they instituted fixed cautions in the truck series that it would carry over to Cup and xfinity. Just like lucky dogs and wave arounds it is not racing. You reap what you sow and they are reaping what they sowed: lower attendence and tv ratings. And they are still shooting themselves in the feet. The media keeps spouting how great the stage racing is I don’t see anything in at all. Looks the same to me. Now in stead of fake cautions they have mandatory cautions. There is no reason to sit and watch an entire race anymore. Just tune in for the last 25 laps, or so.

    No sense in even getting into the playoffs. Should be called the eliminations but drag racing already has that term. The possibility of winning a championship by finishing 30th with 1 win should not even exist. Fans do not like comparing Jimmie Johnson’ s 7 championships with Petty’s and Earnhardt’s because they are 10 race championships not whole season championships. It’s the reason Jimmie doesn’t get as much respect as a champion. And the play offs have failed miserably at increasing attendence and tv ratings.

    Luckily the tv money is good because without it the truck series and xfinity series would be gone. Nobody mentions the pathetic crowds they draw. Fox and NBC are taking it on the chin on this. Tv ad prices are based on ratings and the ratings stink.

    I could go on and on but NASCAR is not reading these blogs. It’s time for a book to be written “The Rise and Fall of a Great Auto Racing Series ” or “how Brian France destroyed his Families Lifetime of work in aFew Short Years”.

  18. I actually like this decision by NASCAR. It’s a longer race and I’m sure no one really thought about the Coke 600 during the process of coming up with stages. I was concerned about the stages at first, but have become a fan of it. I think this is a good move by NASCAR. I do agree, it’d been better to announce at the first of the year, but I’m ok with this.

  19. 600 miles and only 3 stages, how would they get all the commercials in? Make it 4 stages, especially since the new Jr Dew commercial is such a hit and will need extra airtime.

  20. You know what they are up to. Until Joey, Danica and Aric ended up in a fireball all everyone was talking about was Fernando. And he doesn’t race “stock cars”.

    Guess a fourth stage = one Fernando Alonso!

  21. I am not a fan of stage racing at all. I don’t enjoy watching 3 races in 1 race.. we have just about stopped watching the races all together. Once in awhile will turn it on just to see who won.. don’t care about the races at all anymore. Brian France has all but destroyed NASCAR.

    1. I honestly dont think its Brian Frances fault. I think its the “stake holders” that make him do it. U can almost tell when he announces tese things he hates to do it.

  22. Dude, as usual, you are right on. NASCAR continues to change rules in the middle of the season. This kind of decision makes them look like they don’t know what they are doing. Instead of thinking things through, and living with those decisions for the entire season, they continue to undermine themselves.

  23. I’ve been watching the sport since I was 10 years old (started watching in 1996). Over the years NASCAR has made mistake after mistake, starting with the Chase, the CoT, and all the other changes. Like you, I was disgusted when they added a 13th driver to the Chase/Playoff/whatever. The only thing that has kept me consistently watching is my driver, Dale Jr. After this year, NASCAR has its work cut out for it to keep me interested every week. Surely a good percentage of Jr Nation shares my opinion, and not that NASCAR should pander to Junior fans but they need to start paying attention to what people like yourself are saying about the health of the sport. I want to be interested, and I’m trying to find another driver, but right now I don’t even care to put in the effort.

    1. Ryan let me point you to a few VERY talented, fast and going to be around a really long time. Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, and then there’s the Dillon brothers, and tons more in the Xfinity & Truck Series. I #LOOOOOVE Dale Jr. but when he goes I’ll still be tuning in to “EVERY” NASCAR race.

      Just dawned on me, if you’re a fan of Jr.’s you and you quit watching NASCAR you’re doing “him” a disservice because it’s the 2nd thing he loves most, after his family and health.

  24. So far, I love the stage racing. I think it’s added excitement to the races by changing up how teams have to approach the race and it’s been very interesting to me to see the different ways the CC has strategized the race.

    As with most major NASCAR changes, I’m always willing to give it a season to see what happens. Like the Chase – I personally thought the idea of the Chase was a solution looking for a problem, but now I like it.

    That said, though, I agree with Jeff here. These seemingly arbitrary changes are a big problem.

    1. Anonymous, I agree with the 2/3 of your comment. I think someone else said, it probably didn’t occur to them, how looooong and boooooring the 600 can be. I do believe they “did” say there was a possibility there could be some tweaks along the way.

  25. I agree, Jeff. When I first heard the announcement, I didn’t have a problem with it. Maybe I’m numb to NASCAR’s spur-of-the-moment decisions. But after reading your post, I think I see your point — it’s not so much about adding the stage in principle, it’s about doing it in the same month as the race instead of building it into the season from the beginning. Drivers always say, “I don’t care what the rules are, just tell me what we’re racing for and let’s get started.” I’m not sure the drivers care as much as the crew chiefs probably do, because this affects pit strategy — and the 600 is notorious for day-to-night transition, so maybe this is unnecessarily complicating things too close to the race itself.

  26. If you all weren’t NASCAR fans you wouldn’t even be reading this article. So quit boo hooing. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.

  27. I’m done watching nascar at the end of the season with jr retirement who cares!

  28. Adding another ‘stage’ just eliminates the need for a ‘debris’ caution to close up the ranks again. Manufacture the ‘excitement’ with Lucky Dogs and Free passes, then put more emphasis on the ‘title’ than each race….how to make the ‘regular season’ a throwaway.

  29. I completely agree with you.i cannot believe the caution laps count after each stage toward the laps in the next stage! I have never liked the chase format and this year is the worst. After Jr retires Nascar will be hard pressed for fans for sure!

  30. Family owned operation, family writes the rules on etch-a-sketch, family enforces said rules, family decides what will, and won’t happen.

  31. I am a STAGE fan and do not take issue with the change. The 600 is a long boring race most years.
    In our jobs, we often make decisions that have to be tweaked later. We plan for what we think is the perfect solution only to find it is a mistake. I applaud them for seeing an issue and making a change.

  32. Jeff, you talk about Nascar and it’s credibility as if it has any to begin with. Even with stage racing we are still getting numerous phantom debris yellows. Look at the Xfinity races in the last two weeks? The people that run Nascar cannot help themselves but be a complete joke. And what’s sad? I doubt they even notice or care.

    1. So NASCAR now boils watching the last down to watching the last five laps at Homestead, unless there are added overtime laps. Mike

    2. So NASCAR now boils own to watching the last down to watching the last five laps at Homestead, unless there are added overtime laps. Mike

  33. Hell, I’ve been watching NASCAR since 1991 and it seems like the sport especially in the first 26 races have become a joke. Hell, the way how they determine the Final Four to duke it out for the NASCAR Cup is even much worse. I was fine for them to have a 10 race shootout to determine the championship. I am just lost and can’t really take the ME NASCAR CUP Series seriously anymore with their championship. Honestly though, I don’t have a problem with the stages of the races. It’s good to break the monotony up.

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