NASCAR Twitter has no chill today.
This has been the most polarizing day in stock-car social media since Jeff Gordon was added as the 13th driver in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship back in 2013. The Daytona 500 was a crashfest with an unpopular winner in Kurt Busch.
That’s the cause for much of the uproar right there.
But the social media subset of NASCAR fandom is also annoyed by the new stage-based format that split the Great American Race into three separate points-paying segments, in addition to the five-minute crash clock that eliminated several superstars when they crashed in one of the four big multi-car pileups.
I’m here to tell everyone to calm down and ride this one out.
The Daytona 500 isn’t the best race to judge any of the changes NASCAR implemented during the offseason. Due to the restrictor plates that sap horsepower from these machines, it’s barely a real race at all.
We just don’t have the sample size needed to properly judge anything we saw over the weekend across all three NASCAR national divisions. And as I wrote back in January, this new system addressed many of NASCAR fandom’s most vocal complaints over the past half-decade.
On paper, this season has much to get excited about.
The stage-based format should prevent drivers from simply finding a place to ride around in the first half of an event. There’s simply too many points available for complacency. Did it cause some of the chaos this weekend? Probably. But again, this isn’t a huge departure from Daytonas and Talladegas past.
Now let’s address the five-minute caution clock elephant in the room.
On paper, this policy makes so much sense, everyone. There is absolutely no value to be found in cars circling the track barely at minimum speed just for the sake of picking up a point or two. Drivers don’t want to be out there if they can’t race, and fans really don’t pay attention no matter what they’re saying today.
And the lack of a crash cart will also save teams tens-of-thousands of dollars over the course of a full season. Beyond the financial implications, NASCAR also started paying a single point from positions 36 to 40, just to discourage needlessly getting back on the track.
Is five minutes not enough time? Probably. NASCAR mandates that the clock starts from pit entrance to pit exit, so teams actually had less than four minutes to complete repairs. So if NASCAR can’t simply start the clock in the box, it should make it a six-minute clock. Any repairs that can’t be done truly in five minutes will cost the team several laps or speed, and again, they don’t need to be on the track in the first place.
But look: At the end of the day, let’s respectfully back off on all the knee-jerk reactions. With Atlanta, Phoenix, California and Martinsville all looming over the next two months, fans and pundits will soon have enough sample size (and track diversity) to determine if the changes have merit.
We don’t right now after one polarizing restrictor-plate weekend.
So back ‘er down, NASCAR nation.