NASCAR has announced an adjustment to stage lengths for several Cup Series races.
Among the tracks earmarked for changes are all four superspeedway events at Daytona and Talladega. The 1.5-mile races being adjusted are Atlanta and Texas, as well as the opening race of the playoffs at Darlington. Smaller tracks affected are Phoenix, New Hampshire, Dover, and Richmond. The overall length of the races will not change.
The Daytona 500 will be broken up into stages of 65 laps, 65 laps, and 70 laps. The second Daytona race will be 50 laps, 50 laps and 60 laps. Both Talladega races have been adjusted to 60 laps, 60 laps and 68 laps.
“With the 550-engine package, the fuel mileage was different, and the fuel windows got really tight before this change,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “All this does is really make it so in the final stage there’s more than a couple of laps option for the whole field to pit, and it gives a little more leeway on the end on fuel should we go into overtime.”
Atlanta will be run in stages of 105 laps, 105 and 115. Texas will 105, 105, and 124. Darlington will be broken into stages of 115 laps, 115 and 137.
“The way those races laid out before, [we] had an extremely long third stage with two green flag stops necessary, so what we did was shorten the final stage,” continued Miller. “It now only has to have one green-flag stop. The center stage is longer. But we collectively thought that having that last stage not be so long, and having two green flag stops, would potentially keep the field tighter and make for a more exciting race.”
Phoenix will now be 75 laps, 115 and 112. New Hampshire will be 75 laps, 110 and 116. Dover moves to 75 laps, 162 and 163; Richmond is 80 laps, 155 laps, and a final stage of 165 laps.
“The goal there was to create some stages that potentially gave us some more strategy options for the crew chiefs,” said Miller. “Typically those races laid out to where there was no stop necessary in Stage 1 and Stage 2, and a green flag stop necessary in Stage 3. These shifts in stage length put us to where there’s the need for a green flag stop in the second and third stage – some more strategy options there.”
The length of each race for the Pocono doubleheader weekend will be different. The first Pocono race will be split into stages of 25 laps, 52 laps, and 53 laps. The second race will be 30 laps, 55 laps, and 55 laps. In all, the stages for 16 of the season’s 36 races were changed.
Additionally, NASCAR also announced that the halfway point of each race, or the end of Stage 2, whichever occurs first, will serve as the race being deemed official should inclement weather occur. Last year, the race was only considered official at the end of Stage 2.