NASCAR announced the longest race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, the Coca-Cola 600, will be broken up into four 100-lap stages rather than three.
The race will award playoff points at the conclusion of each stage, just like any other MENCS race. Drivers who finish in the top 10 in each of the first three stages will be awarded regular season points like usual, and at the end of the 600-mile event, points will be given out just like the end of any other race, with the same five playoff points being awarded to the race winner.
Prior to the season, NASCAR announced stage lengths for each race and marked the breaks for the Coca-Cola 600 at laps 115 and 230, respectively. Now, breaks will come on laps 100, 200 and 300.
The race is also worth the most points of any throughout the entire 26-race regular season.
“The stage racing format is delivering more dramatic moments over an entire race, fueling tremendous racing action this season,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said in a press release. “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.”
With the advent of this fourth stage, the maximum number of points a driver can score will be raised to 70. This will also be the only race in 2017 to feature more than three stages.
Marcus Smith, president and chief operating officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc., said the four-stage event will present greater challenges, but also reap greater benefits for drivers and teams.
“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,” Smith said. “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.
“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.”
The Coca-Cola-600 will take place Memorial Day Weekend on May 28 from Charlotte Motor Speedway. Martin Truex Jr. is the defending winner of the event, putting on one of the most dominating performances in NASCAR history, leading 392 of the 400 laps.