Tha Sports Junkies 101

The Monday Cool Down: Daytona Chaos Comes In Stages


This weekend, NASCAR finally debuted it’s new Stage (heat race) format at Daytona International Speedway. The format was introduced for all three top divisions and divided the races into three parts. It was a move made by the sanctioning body to inject more excitement into races and gather new fan interest.

To an extent, it did just that. The racing all weekend was the “edge of the seat” experience people been wanting for years. Fierce battles for position and close racing became not only great for fans, but the drivers. Last lap dashes for points and positions brought some unexpected faces into the fold. Lastly, it brought a sense of strategy at a track otherwise not known for it as of recently.

But, the new stage format also induced chaos into the racing. The Truck race Friday night couldn’t even make it past lap 2 of the first segment before wrecking. The XFINITY Series Saturday took over an hour and a half to compete the first 30 lap stage due to two big crashes. The Daytona 500 wasn’t as bad until the final stages, where big wrecks narrowed the field down into 10-12 contenders.

The teams all weekend payed the priced with trashed and totaled race cars. Daytona seemed the Bristol based on the amount of missing body work and bear bond on over half of the fields. In fact, teams that DNQ’d for any of the three races are the luckiest ones and can race their pieces another day without a scratch. Grinding crashed slowed and narrowed fields down to under half on the lead lap at times. Lastly, the risk-reward ratio was too high in the risk side for this type of racing under the format.

But, the racing in this format all weekend was some of the best in years at Daytona. There was never a moment of dullness or drivers laying back looking for the end in sight. Drivers were always trying or planning their next move to advance through the field. In fact, i can’t recall the last time a Daytona 500 came down to fuel mileage in any way. The winners also were a story of uniqueness in three ways. Kurt Busch came outta nowhere to complete several years worth of redemption and won NASCAR’s “Super Bowl”. The Truck Series race brought a new first time winner to the fold and XFINITY brought back a historic Daytona winner into victory lane.

NASCAR though will have to fine tune or do something to reverse the coming trend of chaos if it continues at the Super Speedways. These races alone shouldn’t come down to who’s the least wrecked or who can dodge the biggest wrecks alone. Sadly, that’s what happen to an extent during the Daytona 500 weekend and luck became the way to survive.

Luck in general has made Daytona the ultimate “crap shoot” in exciting racing for years. But, this format may be giving it too much of that at the Super Speedways. The worry won’t be there next weekend when NASCAR arrives at Atlanta, but it will be at Talladega and Daytona. The remaining two or three Super Speedway race weekend this year could end up the same way. It just doesn’t need to be that way, and it shouldn’t be that way.

Overall, the general consensus for the format’s first weekend is from anywhere from positive to lukewarm. One thing is for sure, the stage format brings unnecessary drama and luck into a type of racing that already depends on it a lot. But, the format outside of that has already gotten off to a great start for NASCAR and it’s partners. The next 35 races should be a dandy to see if it can build on what happened at Daytona and perhaps improve.