Change is to NASCAR as rubbing is to racing. Over the years the one constant in the world of NASCAR has been change and come 2018 it looks like more change is going to be on the horizon.
The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season saw the governing body once again make a series of sweeping changes in an effort to improve the sport and attract new fans. Come 2018, it looks as though a few more changes will be coming our way. NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell spoke on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio this week about some of the changes that could be coming our way next season. One of the potential changes that he spoke about was adding more stages to races next season after the success of the added stage at Charlotte.
I think it’s certainly something that played into the strategy (the fourth stage in Charlotte). I think it worked well all night in terms of having different strategies — you have to make certain choices when you’re going to come in, when you’re going to stay out, who’s going to gamble.
To me, it’s part of the entire race, right? Who has a win and who doesn’t, who can afford to gamble and that all played out on Sunday night. We saw Kyle (Busch) and Martin (Truex) battle it out for what they thought was for the win. We saw Austin Dillon hold out once Jimmie ran out (of fuel) and a lot of different things played out over that last stage.
I was proud of the industry for coming together and putting the fourth stage in play. It worked out for the Coke 600, and we’ll keep an open mind about it for 2018.
Adding stages to more races in 2018 isn’t the only potential change that is on the table. The addition of stages to a race means that said race will also have more points up for grabs. So does the addition of stages mean that NASCAR will now put some of the bigger races of the season on a pedestal by making more points available to drivers during those races?
It’s probably too early to have that conversation. But it’s one of those things we’ll look at. You know, we’ve always discussed the idea of majors at certain races and what should carry more points. So you look at the Coke 600 and Darlington, Daytona and the Coke 600, for sure.
So these are all things we’ll take a look at once we see how this format and these stages work out, and then we’ll look at 2018.
NASCAR needs to be careful because the word change automatically makes fans cringe given the amount of change that the sport has gone through in the last decade alone. It’s also fair to point out that the added stage didn’t play as big of a role in setting up the ending of the Coca-Cola 600 as did the fact that a caution didn’t come out during the final 70 laps or so. Had a caution come out with 25 laps to go, all of the drivers playing the fuel game would have been forced to pit for tires and the race win most likely goes to Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr. who were the two dominant cars of the evening.
Although O’Donnell didn’t guarantee that NASCAR is going to make changes for 2018, the writing seems to be on the wall at least when it comes to adding stages. O’Donnell was gushing during the radio show about how well the added stage in Charlotte worked, so it would only make sense for NASCAR to look into adding stages at some other events on the schedule given how pleased they were with the outcome at Charlotte. So, enjoy the 2017 NASCAR season while it’s here because the version that we get in 2018 will most likely be a bit different than the version that we are watching now.
Will it be better? Will it be worse? Who knows.