Daytona 500 stages: Explaining the format, stage lengths for 2020 NASCAR season-opener

Three years ago, the Daytona 500 ushered in a new era for NASCAR and its three major series. Stage racing was implemented in an effort to increase entertainment value and competitiveness at various points throughout races.

In 2020, as the Daytona 500 again arrives to begin a new season for the Cup Series, stage racing persists as NASCAR’s format for all 36 of its races on the schedule. This despite mixed reviews from fans through three full seasons of stage racing.

NASCAR earlier this month announced the stage lengths for those 36 Cup Series races in 2020, beginning with Sunday’s 200-lap Daytona 500. As always, all races are split into three stages, with the exception being the Coca-Cola 600 in May; NASCAR’s longest race requires four stages.

Below is all you need to know about the stages and format for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Daytona 500 stages

The length of the first stage of each race varies depending on the track, but it’s approximately 25-30 percent of the race’s total length. Stage 2 also is 25-30 percent of the race, with Stage 3 made up of whatever mileage is left after the first two stages, usually roughly half.

The format for the Daytona 500 is such that the final stage will consist of the last 35 percent of the race. The pit window for Cup cars at Daytona is 40 laps, so different teams and manufacturers are sure to implement a wide range of strategies based on the 65- and 70-lap stage lengths.

A caution period splits each stage, and points are handed out to the drivers who finish in the top 10 of the first two stages. On top of one playoff point, the winner of the first two stages gets 10 points; second gets nine points, third gets eight points and so on.

Below is the points payout for the top 10 finishers of the first two stages.

At the end of the third stage, which marks the end of the race, the winner gets five playoff points in addition to 40 race points. Second place gets 35 points, third gets 34 points, fourth gets 33 points and so on until 36th-40th, all of which get just one point.

In the event that the finish of the Daytona 500 (or any race) is threatened by bad weather, the race is official upon the conclusion of Stage 2.

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