In an attempt to find someone common ground, let’s have a little Tuesday afternoon brainstorming session.
Here’s the issue: I like the stages and the new format. The stages produce playoff bonus points for the winners (like it), give regular season points that reward consistently good drivers (like it), offer snack and bathroom breaks (like it) and bunch up the field to set up restarts at a point when the races are sometimes blah (LOVE IT).
Those are all great changes, and even the stage-haters seem to concede they like those things.
But the anti-stage people seem to be most upset about something else: Counting the caution laps during the breaks.
It’s important to hear these people. As customers and viewers, they feel ripped off. They feel cheated because by the time the next stage starts, it’s already six or seven laps into it at many tracks (and will be A LOT more this weekend at Martinsville Speedway).
The counter argument to this is the races would be a lot longer if these laps did not count. But the people who feel shorted by caution laps don’t want to hear that.
So this seems like a perception issue, and that means there’s a solution. Let’s figure it out together; we don’t have to fight about the stages!
Here’s one idea: Let’s say there were a set number of caution laps built into a stage break and THEN the next stage would start.
For example: At Fontana, the stages on Sunday were 60 laps/60 laps/80 laps.
Perhaps NASCAR could change it up to something like 55 laps/five-lap caution for stage break/55 laps/five-lap caution for stage break/80 laps.
That might make fans feel better, because the stages would start fresh — with the lap counter at zero. The only problem would be if there was a crash toward the end of a stage and NASCAR needed more time for cleanup, but fans would probably understand those rare circumstances.
Anyway, a small tweak might erase some of the negativity around the stage breaks (which is overshadowing what seems to be a very positive change overall).
Aside from this suggestion, what are some of your ideas to make the stage breaks better?