I have been kind of quiet lately as I process the new racing format and a couple of other issues. To catch you up- if you haven’t been reading me very long- I came out against the new “stages” format at the beginning of the season.
However, it was at the Las Vegas race that my mind started to turn slightly. While at the Vegas race I was talking to Misty and she stated that she thought the stages actually did bring excitement mid race to races that usually lacked a little something in the middle. Because of this it held her attention longer. Also while in Vegas I was privileged enough to listen to Chad Knaus (crew chief for Jimmie Johnson) talk to a group of fans and associates at a Lowes in nearby Henderson Nevada and one of the fans posed a question to him about his thoughts on the new format. He stated that he thought it was a good thing on their end because it honestly keeps even the team more engaged during a long race. I decided to continue to keep my mind open about these stages. It wasn’t until the Martinsville race though that I really personally saw the excitement that the stages bring to the races. I do still think the new format needs some tweaking though. Mainly I think that the caution laps that immediately follow the stages should not be counted towards the total laps of the race. There should be something put in place there so that these cautions – which tend to be longer don’t impact the race so much.
One thing I find with all the emphasis during broadcasts with the stages and the stage winners that we aren’t seeing is so much the emphasis on the “Win and your in” mindset that has been so prevalent in previous broadcasts. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing– it’s just a different thing and it’s been hard for my brain to wrap around.
I am still very much NOT a fan of the five minute fix rule however- and I think that at the least they need to make it so that the five minutes don’t start until the car enters the pit stall. Once they enter then start counting down the five minutes. I think that because not only to the lengths and pit road speeds vary from track to track, but any specific car’s position on pit road will vary from race to race as well- so it really doesn’t seem like a fair rule. Of course I don’t like the rule from a fan standpoint because once the car is done there is pretty much no hope as a fan to be able to see your favorite driver back on track once they are done for the day. That makes me sad. Before this rule, when my favorite driver’s car was damaged in a car, I would hope that he would be able to fix the car and come back on track and make up some position points in the standings. Now if you go behind the wall due to an accident you are done for the day. If they are insistent on keeping this rule however, I think that they should make it for the mechanical issues too. None of this you can fix it and come back as long as it wasn’t the result of damage due to a wreck. Or better yet- go back to the way things use to be.
That said- I love Martinsville because I love the close, fender rubbing action and the stage format did showcase this for me because I felt the sense of urgency of drivers like Ricky Stenhouse who pushed Kyle Busch to get back on the lead lap thus causing Busch to lose sight of the lat stage win- which went to Chase Elliott by half a car length. That was kind of exciting and I think that it was due to the urgency of the stage caution about to be flown. Even with that sense of urgency- I still think even though Martinsville is a short track that the number of laps could be shortened overall to 400.
Drivers that impressed me: Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson
Drivers that disappointed me: Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray
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