Has stage racing decreased passing numbers on superspeedways?
The 2020 Daytona 500 saw less than favorable loop data numbers compared to the previous five runnings of NASCAR’s most famous race. In fact, Monday’s race saw the lowest number of quality passes since 2015 and the second-lowest number of green flag passes in that time as well.
Monday’s race featured 13 leaders, just below the 13.5 average since 2015. The same goes for the number of lead changes, the 24 on Monday were just below the average of 24.5. The biggest discrepancy comes down to the drop in passing numbers and there seems to be one common denominator in this equation.
Since the introduction of Stage Racing in 2017, the passing numbers in the Daytona 500 have dropped off immensely. To the tune of a 40% decrease in green-flag passes and a 27% decrease in quality passes. The stark drop off coincides with the introduction of stage race racing.
A few factors have likely contributed to the drop-off. Stage racing encourages drivers to race at the end of stages but not in the middle, single file runs are a very real thing. Throw-in the built-in cautions at each stage break and your strategy is all but set out for you. And then you have the increased number of caution laps, a minimum of 6 extra laps of caution have been added since stage racing was introduced. While that doesn’t seem like a lot it can have an effect on loop data.
Having said all that, it appears this downward trend is only relative to the Daytona 500. The summer race at Daytona, and the Talladega races haven’t seen the drastic fall-off in passing numbers since the introduction of stage racing.
At the end of the day, all that matters is if fans leave the race being entertained by what they saw. Sure passing numbers are down but the majority of fans seemed entertained by what the saw.
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