Through the first 11 weeks of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, the trend has been for each race to feature three stages, with the first two stages making up about half of the race and then the final stage to the finish. But things will be a bit different when the series rolls into Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 as NASCAR announced on Monday that the longest race of the season will now feature four stages instead of the normal three.
Instead of two short stages and the final stage being the longest, the four stages for the Coca-Cola 600 will break the race down into four 100-lap segments. When the stage lengths were announced prior to the season, Charlotte was scheduled to have two stages at 115 laps apiece and a final stage of 170 laps.
As a result of the change, the Coca-Cola 600 will now have more playoff points up for grabs than any other race thus far in 2017.
“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.”
“For 58 years, the Coca-Cola 600 has been a crown jewel on the NASCAR circuit because it presents unique challenges that don’t exist in any other race. The distance is greater. The test of endurance is greater. The challenge of adjusting to the track surface from hot to cool puts more pressure on crew chiefs and pit crews,” said Marcus Smith, president and chief operating officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. “It’s only fitting that teams have an opportunity to be rewarded for the extra effort required to win at the 600. An additional stage win and that extra playoff point in May could be critical for playoff success in the fall.”
Last year’s Coca-Cola 600 without stages featured a dominating performance by Martin Truex, Jr., which saw him lead a record-high 392 of 400 laps in the race for his first win in the Memorial Day marathon.