Tuesday Brainstorm: Fixing the stage breaks

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?

60 Replies to “Tuesday Brainstorm: Fixing the stage breaks”

  1. How about no caution flag and just let the race continue, but keep the stages as is? It would still allow the drivers to be rewarded, but also keep the race flowing. I could care less about hearing the stage winner be interviewed in the middle of the race.

    1. TV likes those sweet, sweet commercial breaks though. And I don’t mind them if that means fewer green-flag commercials.

      1. I was assuming the same amount of time for the stage break as they currently have, just cut the pace car speed so that you’re taking less laps.

  2. Why not race thru the stages, no breaks, no fuel mileage strategies. Let’s keep the pit stops under real cautions or green flag . I agree the points keep the races better, can’t wait till Talledega this year, no more trains of cars like in Formula1!

  3. Have TV do away with their canned hangar interview at stage end. It is worse than a track giving a stage trophy. Continue with in car interview. Should not take 7 laps at a 2 mile track. They have just added an additional commercial.

  4. Just don’t stop at end of stages. Go ahead and award points at final stage lap. Reset lap counter and continue racing. They will still race hard for those points. TV will show commercials whether we’re green or not. That will never change.

  5. Maybe do what some short tracks do, count the first 4 or 5 laps under the break and then close pit road and freeze the field until NASCAR is ready to go back to green. It would feel just like a normal caution this way.

  6. I say 3 laps of caution between each stage. That gives everyone time to pit. They an count those fine no bug loss. Anything beyond those 3 would be treated as pace laps!

  7. I’d leave it alone. Although I did see one response suggesting slowing down the Pace Car during the break.

  8. Jeff, your “solution” is just semantics. We are still losing 10 green flag laps.

    If we have to have stages, which I wish we didn’t, then I agree with suggestions to not throw caution flag.

  9. Some people may like stages but based on declining TV ratings many, many don’t. So NASCAR lost fans that have been there for years and gained little if any fans.

    1. Do you really think the stages are causing people to tune out? There might be people who don’t like them, but I can’t imagine someone going, “Eh, I’m not gonna watch anymore” because of a couple extra cautions.

      1. Some people are just never happy with change. Doesn’t matter what the change is. It’s just different, It’s like with George carlin used to say “I don’t even know what it is and I don’t like it” Stage racing is being sold as a way to make the race more compelling. And in a lot of ways it has. As a diehard fan it brings new elements of strategy. Drivers seem to race very hard for those too 10 positions. The field is then bunched up. All good things. At this point I don’t know why anybody would care and then run 5-10 laps on the caution and the end of each stage. Yellow flags are way down the last couple years. The cars have become virtually impossible to wreck. There is so much side wars in these cars nowadays that they simply don’t wreck. So now we have built-in caution periods to replace the lack off wrecking. Most of these races would be in large part extremely boring without those stages. Kevin Harvick would have lapsed the field and Atlanta. I am fairly certain the same thing could’ve happened in California. certainly at phoenix the complexion of the race change with the stage as to who was best at that time. So the complaint then will be there’s no passing for the lead and no yellow flags to creat racing. (That’s still a valid Complaint). But to me instead of trying to figure out how to make the stages better, Let’s figure out how to remove the side force, give the drivers back some hp and hang on. Make the drivers earn it with their hands and feet. Give the fan something they haven’t seen in years . Give the drivers the opportunity to truly race. You might just find this whole stage racing deal would be a non-issue

      2. Ratings have been dropping since the Chase was started. I think every time NASCAR adds another gimmick that more fans leave. Another gimmick is another straw on the back that eventually leads to fans leaving.

        So it’s not just stage breaks, it’s the combination of gimmick after gimmick after gimmick that causes them to leave.

  10. They should have a 5 minute stage clock. Field locks at the end of the stage, come to pit road and work on anything you need to on your car. You have five minutes to be rolling back onto the track to start the next stage. No laps lost, teams aren’t playing strategy games, and you will see cars who missed the setup make a tweak or one that is wrecked get theirs back competitive. Clock is over line them up like they took the flag and go racing.

    1. I love the idea having a true break between stages. Why worry about caution laps. The teams get x minutes to work on the car, and they are lined up just as they ended the previous stage. Make it more like a true half time/7th inning stretch time. Maybe the races need to be shorter.

      1. If we have to have a break between stages, I like this idea, as well. Allows the networks to get in some commercials, fans to grab a snack / bathroom break, but doesn’t waste laps. The truck series used to have halftime breaks, so I don’t see why we can’t have a shorter version of those.

      2. I like the idea of a true intermission with the ability to work on the car. Limits to what could be worked on would have to be put in place. Restart the cars in order of stage finish….

        But honestly I like what they are doing now. Let this play out for more than just a couple of weeks. My guess is NASCAR will get a little more efficient (or at least cut down the number of laps).

  11. Ideally they wouldn’t have a caution at the end of the stage, but I get the point that this may allow less green flag commercials. I’m still waiting to see someone do a detailed breakdown of the commercials to see if we truly are getting less green flag breaks now with the stages.

    But it should not take more than 5 laps. first lap to gather the field up. Lap 2 lead lap cars pit. lap 3 lap down cars pit. lap 4 you line them up and lap 5 we’re green. Anything beyond 5 laps is a failure of administering the race by the nascar officials

    1. On some level, I think NASCAR fans simply hate change, and will be upset about anything that goes against tradition. IMO, that’s what this mini uproar about stages is really about. The stage cautions themselves have little material impact on the race, and their absence would probably result in more phony debris cautions anyway.

      1. Reading these comments I was thinking the same thing. If we didn’t have these stages, there would be the same bogus cautions that we have had to endure for the last few years. At least this gives the drivers some incentive to race during the boring parts of the races and adds a bit of entertainment value.

  12. I’m glad its not just me that don’t like the way 6 or 7 laps are just wasted.Why not just don’t count the laps.They aren’t really caution laps they are stage break laps so just don’t add them to the lap total.

  13. Stage breaks / intermission is what allows the teams to play new strategies. If you just race through the intermission, teams wouldn’t be able to gamble on pit strategy, drivers wouldn’t be able to push their fuel and tire degradation… Drivers would be less willing to make riskier and more rewarding moves at the end of stages because that more aggressive behavior would immeaditly come back to bite them the first green flag lap of the next stage.

    1. So you like races won on strategy, not who has the fastest car. I like racing and I’m not a big fan of math determining the winner. The stages at Daytona were a disaster because of math. Cars about to go a lap down blocking the leaders was the stupidest thing I’ve ever watched.

  14. I like the stage racing format mainly because it packs the field back together for some good restart action. That’s a plus. So far this year if we didn’t have the stages we wouldn’t be seeing cautions til the end of the race. I have never liked long green flag runs. No caution after a stage defeats this positivity.
    My only problem is I don’t think commercials have gotten less apparent. Seems to be just as many.
    Honestly, I think we will see better results from the stage racing when we get deeper into the season and everybody understands the new system better. Teams will be doing everything they can to win races and stages to get caught up on points.
    My only problem is I don’t think this new aero package is working like we hoped. If that doesn’t work stages really won’t be to much benefit.

  15. Do a “quickie yellow”like they do at the end of some races. Lose the non-insightful canned stage winner interview that they wait for tv to come back from break to do and also no need to blow the track. I really worry about how long this is going eat up at tracks like Sonoma and Watkins Glen where there are so few laps to begin with. 10 laps gone for two 5 lap stage breaks at Watkins is 10% of the race!!!

    1. That honestly should be all relative. It takes a very long time to run caution lapse at those places, so you may get a commercial break in before they’ve even completed a lap. Other side of that argument is the stage racing will significantly change the strategy going into those races in particular. Those races may turn in to racing for position and track position vs and less racing to your window and being the First car to make his last stop on pit road. Pros and cons. I’ll give up some of the quantity if that means improving the quality

    2. Yep. I said this at Daytona. There should be no reason to blow the track between stages unless there is a wreck just before the stage ending. Throw the caution, open the pits, then go back to racing. Lose the interview too. Fans don’t give a crap that so and so just won a stage.

  16. If Stage 1 is 130 laps at Martinsville, Stage 2 should end 130 laps after the drop of the green to begin the stage. Sure, count the caution laps if you’d like, but if Stage 2’s green flag drops on Lap 145, go to lap 275. The number of laps for Stage 3 don’t matter since it’s the conclusion of the race rather than a stage.

    1. It should also be noted I like the stage breaks and I don’t mind their length. Talking to the winning driver? Meh, whatever. I’m peeing, anyways.

  17. I might be in the minority but I like it the was it is. nascar needed some changes and the stage racing keeps me more interested in the race from green flag to the finish.

  18. What if they do a “quickie caution:” all cars, regardless of what lap they’re on, gets one chance to go down pit road. This would reduce the amount of laps taken away from the next segment and make pit road entertaining to watch. And added bonus could be whichever lap down car completes their stop first would receive their lap back. Once again, adding more drama and entertainment to the race.

  19. I like the idea of the fast caution. Get in the pits, change tires and back on the track. I know there is a lot to do under a yellow flag. Getting everyone in the right order and allowing the free pass cars to go around.

  20. I love the stages! I do agree the cautions are too long. I do like the idea of slowing down the pace car, but it possibly could cause overheating issues. I think making the the segment cautions a “quickie caution” that’s only 2 laps and pit road closed could solve two problems. The break obviously would be shorter, and closing pit road during the break would eliminate some of the trick strategies teams are trying to use. Anyone that feels cheated by the cautions needs to realize at least we aren’t getting cheated by nonsense debris cautions anymore.

  21. I can’t say for sure the right solution, I don’t love the caution laps but I respect the impact of a guaranteed commercial slot.

    I think I like the idea of just parking the cars for 5 min the best and letting teams tweak cars during the ads. It’d be fascinating to see what that did to the racing. Maybe nothing, but might really be a cool strategy point.

  22. I see no validity in the argument people feel cheated out of a few laps of caution as opposed to them being green. These races are so long as is, it shouldn’t be a matter of “being cheated” out of a few green laps, but rather that stage breaks just take too long. I’m a proponent of shortening many of the races as is anyway. To me, just streamline the stage breaks. Caution, bring lead lap cars in, short commercial, then lap down cars pit the next lap – which for all I care the commercial can run through, then at most 2 more laps to get everyone in their position (again, commercial over this too) then drop the green again. That’s a total of 4 laps of caution. For me, it’s not about being cheated, it’s about too much screwing around.

  23. Stage ends, TV goes to commercial. They come back for the leaders pit stops. After the lap down cars pit nascar puts the red flag out. TV does their interview with the winner. Then tv goes to comercial. While we are away at commercial they put the yellow back out so that when we come back from commercial the field is in turn 4 coming to the green. That should keep the laps between the stages to 4 or 5 laps. This could save 15 laps a stage at a place like Martinsville.

  24. Michael at 3:45 pm wrote:

    “They should have a 5 minute stage clock. Field locks at the end of the stage, come to pit road and work on anything you need to on your car. You have five minutes to be rolling back onto the track to start the next stage. No laps lost, teams aren’t playing strategy games, and you will see cars who missed the setup make a tweak or one that is wrecked get theirs back competitive. Clock is over line them up like they took the flag and go racing.”

    Mitch @ 3:55 pm wrote”

    “I love the idea having a true break between stages. Why worry about caution laps. The teams get x minutes to work on the car, and they are lined up just as they ended the previous stage. Make it more like a true half time/7th inning stretch time. Maybe the races need to be shorter.”

    These two comments are winners.

  25. I would rather see it set up like the racing Nascar came from. Set up 2 heat races that are 1/4 of the race each then set the field and race the last half according to your heat finish. Big yawn on the stages plus far to confusing for new Nascar fans to figure out points. Is it really Nascar anymore anyway. Seems like Nascar wants to become the new IROC with the small box crews are in. Was a great fan, now…not so much.

  26. 200 years ago, Abraham Lincoln worded his enigma very wisely: You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.

    NASCAR has worked their butts off the last few years trying to please the fans (When the Bill’s run the sport they didn’t listen to anybody) and they are NEVER going to be able to make everybody happy. I’m with those who said leave it alone and lets see how things work out a little ways down the road.

    I’m loving this new format but as some of the others said, disappointed in the new low/low package. The Xfinity race was fantastic Sat. Wow, did you see the 5 wide racing? It seems the Cup cars need more of their features than what they are running now.

    P.S. Jeff I’m still waiting on the “like ” button. There were several comments I would have give a ????????.

  27. Maybe just have 1 stage (halftime) and the end of the race. Get rid of the interview with the stage winner. IMO winning a stage isn’t interview worthy, I really don’t care.
    If I had my way they would award the points without stopping the race. They know what the running order is.
    I agree with others in that it doesn’t seem like they’ve loaded the commercials into the stage break to have less commercials during the green flag runs but I’d like to see those stats. If they could prove that then the stages would be worth the trade off.

  28. In my opinion stage racing has been an improvement if only from the standpoint that it seems to have eliminated “phantom cautions” which, honestly, were there to do exactly what we are seeing now. Only difference is that in years previous we didn’t have any points awarded and there were no interviews. I’d rather have things as they are this season with stages than go back to the cautions coming out at random times for seemingly no reason.

    The fans saying “just race through the stages” aren’t seeing this, apparently. My opinion is that if NASCAR were to not stop the event for stages we’d be right back to getting the “phantom cautions”. Things like Danica’s “near wreck” at Fontana would have brought out the yellow as well for the reason that it would have bunched up a very strung out field.

    In my opinion the big fail is that we still have commercial breaks during racing. If TV would agree to jam all the stage caution laps with advertising, then leave green flag racing ad-free, I think you’d be hearing a very different story here.

  29. I was skeptical of the stages at first, but they have really grown on me. I agree that they aren’t perfect though. I have noticed that there have been slightly fewer green flag commercials, but something needs to be done about the stage break and the caution laps. Something that has bothered me is that they go to commercial for what seems like 5 minutes after the stage is over, and when they come back they STILL haven’t made a pit stop yet. Save some time and do the pit stops while they are at commercial break. Unless NASCAR is admitting that stops are the most entertaining part of the race now, we don’t need to see them on tv between the stages. If race length is what they are concerned about, this would save a few minutes between each stage. Maybe then we could get a few extra minutes of post- race coverage as a trade-off. Is it just me or has FOX been cutting post-race coverage short this season? It seems like we get an interview with the winner and maybe 2 other drivers, and then its almost like they can’t wait to get NASCAR off the air. Hell, they cut to commercial before we even got to see Larson’s burnout last week! I don’t think our frustration is with NASCAR, as much as it is with the tv networks and FOX. They seem to control all aspects of the fan viewing experience these days, not just in NASCAR, but in all sports. Don’t tell us what we want to see, listen to us and actually give us what we want to see.

  30. I understand why Jeff brought up this topic & I’ve read all the comments-great discussion! My thoughts, maybe it’s too soon to re-evaluate Stage breaks. We haven’t even seen all of the track sizes & should have more experience with the whole process … then a thorough analysis would have enough data/sample size to be meaningful. Thanx to Jeff for his whole new approach to NASCAR reporting!

  31. Muzzle all the Fox broadcasters during the break and just listen to all the driver and crew chief radio chatter.

  32. NASCAR fans are so stupid. Don’t you people realize “Stage Breaks” are nothing more than the hated “Competition Caution” baloney NASCAR used before? Only difference is they award points now at the break.

  33. The “stage racing” was meant so fans would get to see more green flag racing. Problem is, TV doesn’t run their commercials during the stage breaks. They still run them under green flag racing. Also, Nascar has it wrong with what the people want to see. Fans want to see cars passing each other, not pit stops all the time, and not exclusively focused on the leader of the race. When any race car passes another race car, SHOW IT!

  34. The stage racing is fine, it’s the cars and number of laps that need fixing. NASCAR needs to knock the ground effects off the cars and shorten the races to about two hours.

  35. Something I’ve been shocked by, is the lack of conversation this week over Fox going to commercial after the stage winner has crossed the line…however, before everyone who will be awarded stage points crossed.

    I realize at the end of a race it’s difficult to show all 40 cars cross the line, but it’s crazy to cut to commercial before all 10 points paying stage spots have crossed the line.

  36. I’m late to the discussion here but here’s my idea. If they go straight to commercials as soon as the stages are over and show the pit stops and interviews after the commercials before going green, it should knock out some caution laps. We still get to see the pit stops and if they didn’t tell anyone they did it, we would never know from the couch. Then they could make sure if something happens during pit stops we won’t miss it because the cameras were showing something else. And if tv and radio worked together for this it would make the caution laps shorter.

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