Dale Earnhardt Jr. explains his only issue with NASCAR changing the Coca-Cola 600 – For The Win
NASCAR announced a variety of rule changes coming into 2017 competition, but apparently it couldn’t resist messing with the setup of the Coca-Cola 600 – the Cup Series’ next points race – at the last minute.
Within the stage racing rules – also new this season – NASCAR announced the longest race on the schedule will have four stages instead of the typical three, breaking the 600-mile race into 100-lap segments. This means drivers will have one additional opportunity to earn points via a top 10 finish at the end of each stage.
Among the varied reactions from the NASCAR world, Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn’t terribly pleased about this. He doesn’t have an issue with altering the actual stages, but, as he explained on his Dale Jr. Download podcast to co-host Tyler Overstreet, “don’t do it as the season’s happening.”
The extra chance for stage and playoff points is all but guaranteed to make a difference in the long run when the regular season ends and the 16-driver, 10-race playoff begins, Earnhardt said.
Overstreet: You’re basically calling it a crown jewel – very important race because it has more points on the line. They should have done that in January, in my opinion.
Earnhardt: I agree. I share your opinion. Yeah, I mean, but that’s NASCAR, you know? They’re going to make some announcements just a week before the race.
Overstreet: So should we expect the Southern 500 (in September) to be run in four stages?
Earnhardt: Be ready. Could happen.
Then, in true Dale Jr. fashion, after criticizing NASCAR’s move, he went on to speculate about and defend the organization’s mindset for this super late announcement.
But he made a valid point. Prior to the start of the season with the Daytona 500 in February, perhaps NASCAR was so focused on announcing the new stages that it didn’t consider exceptions to the standard three segments.
“I think that it’d have been nice to announce that earlier but there’s a lot going on leading up to the season,” Junior continued on the podcast. “Maybe there’s not enough vision and foresight to see, ‘Hey man, think about the 600 – four stages.’ Once you get to that bridge, you’re like, ‘Dang, this would be a good idea.”