NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 Gets Four Stages, Worth More Points Than Any Other Race
NASCAR announced this morning there will be "four stages instead of three" for the upcoming Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, according to Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com. The announcement "makes the event, the longest on the NASCAR calendar, worth more than any other race on the 28-race regular-season schedule." Each stage "will be 100 laps," and a playoff point will be "awarded to the winner of each of the first three stages" (ESPN.com, 5/15). In K.C., Tod Palmer noted when NASCAR broke up its points system at the beginning of the season, it was "driven, in part, to make races more television friendly with the cautions after each stage providing a natural commercial window when there wasn’t much on-track action." NASCAR Exec VP & Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said, "Fans are seeing a much higher percentage of green-flag racing, so -- all in all, it’s still early -- but we’re really happy with what we’ve seen." Palmer noted stage racing "seems to have been well-received through the season’s first 10 races." Driver Paul Menard said, "My initial reaction was I thought it was kind of gimmicky, trying to make the race something it’s not, but the way it’s played out has actually surprised me. It’s been really fluid.” Driver Kyle Larson said the racing has been "more intense at the end of the stages" (K.C. STAR, 5/12).
UP & COMING: ESPN.com's Ricky Craven noted with his win earlier this month at Talladega Superspeedway, Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. entered the "early stage of both growth and earnings, the sweet spot for a drivers' career." But the "problem for Roush Fenway Racing is this; with the win, Stenhouse becomes far more attractive to investors, those less willing to gamble at a low price, but willing to pay double, maybe triple, for a sure thing." In the "simplest of terms, Stenhouse's stock should continue to climb in the next six months." There are "simply too few young drivers capable of winning at any track on the schedule, with the level of experience Stenhouse possesses." Craven: "What's that worth to a team? We might see in the coming weeks." Speculation will "surround NASCAR's most recent first-time winner" (ESPN.com, 5/13).