I believe NASCAR is getting the hint that 600 miles on a “cookie cutter” 1.5-mile track is not that fan-friendly. There is not that much passing for the lead because of the down force package the cars have. Once in the lead, a car just keeps increasing its lead as the cars in the pack trade places among themselves.
A good example of that was in the all-star race when Kyle Larson kept the lead for the first two stages, sweeping both wins. After getting shuffled back during a pit stop, he was stuck behind a few cars and never could get back to the lead.
NASCAR added a fourth stage to the Coca-Cola 600 creating a race consisting of four, 100-lap races. “The stage racing format is delivering more dramatic moments over an entire race, fueling tremendous racing action this season,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “With a fourth stage added to the Coca-Cola 600, the historic event will have another layer of strategy for teams and even more excitement within the race for fans.”
The additional stage also creates more opportunities for teams to amass more points to help them in the standings.
With the regular season almost half completed, Truex Jr., Larson and Keselowski have taken advantage of stage points and have a large points lead over the rest of the Cup drivers.
With 4 stages in the Coca-Cola 600, the ability to win stage points showed us how important stage points are. Austin Dillon won the race and with only 5 total stage points added to his 40 points for the win, his 45 total points were well shy of the 61 and 60 points made by Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who finished 2nd and 3rd in the race. Busch and Truex each made 26 points in the stages.
Dillon won the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event of his career and put the vaunted No. 3 Chevrolet back in Victory Lane for the first time since 2000. Dillon was one of only eight drivers who stayed out on the track while the strongest cars on the track came into the pits for fuel on lap 368 of 400.
Dillon, who led only the final two laps, had to restrain himself from using too much fuel in pursuit of Johnson. “I ran out at the line, and it gurgled all around just to do one little spin and push it back to Victory Lane,” he said.
The Coca-Cola 600 is NASCAR’s longest race and with a rain delay of more than 90 minutes, the race, which started on Sunday, ended Monday. There have been 9 different winners in the 12 races so far this year and with 14 races left in the regular season, someone with a win may not make the playoffs.