Stage breaks reinstituted for Roval … but will it matter?

The tight confines of the Charlotte Roval tend to create cautions (Getty Images)

NASCAR’s Elton Sawyer announced recently that stage breaks, which had been eliminated for the road course races held so far in 2023, will be put back in place for the upcoming Bank of America ROVAL 400 on the road course at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Senior Vice President of Competition pointed out that the sanctioning body, along with participants and other partners, were in agreement for the sake of uniformity throughout the NASCAR Playoffs.

Although there have been no yellow flags at the end of stages on road courses this season, points were still awarded after the predetermined number of laps were completed. Caution flags have been displayed at the end of stages on oval tracks throughout the 2023 campaign.

The news of reinstating stage breaks comes on the heels of two somewhat benign road course races, Indianapolis and Watkins Glen, which saw only one caution each. Sawyer explained the change in policy during a video segment shown by

“If you look at our season as a whole, we started this year, we still had the stage breaks, if you will, we still paid points at road courses but we didn’t stop,” Sawyer explained. “This was all within a collaboration in the industry, our fans were looking for that. We’ve had five road course races now and we felt like we could do better in the Playoffs so we’ll introduce the stage breaks starting at the Roval here in a couple of weeks. We’re looking forward to it. All this came about with great collaboration with the industry, the garage area, our TV partners, and our stake holders. We felt like ultimately it will give the fans a better race.”

Many followers of the sport had argued that throwing cautions at the end of each stage took away strategy plays on the road courses. Pitting at the right time to stay within a fuel window, short pitting to take advantage of fresh tires, stretching fuel mileage, and jumping onto pit road when it looked as if a natural caution might be in the works were a part of road course racing prior to the era of stage breaks.

Sawyer pointed out that the industry wanted consistency throughout the Playoffs and that no decision has been made regarding stage break cautions on road courses in the future.

“I think if you look at it from a Playoff perspective, the last ten races being consistent from an officiating standpoint,” Sawyer stated, “We’ll take a deeper dive in the off-season to see what 2024 looks like.”

But the thing is, having stage break yellow flags on the Charlotte Roval may be an inconsequential move. The Roval is a racing venue designed within the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway quad-oval. Because of the fact that it has some very tight areas and the track is essentially squeezed into its confined surroundings, cautions tend to happen naturally without having to be contrived.

Until last year when there were only four yellow flags at the Roval, including the two preplanned stage breaks, races on this track have typically seen an abundance of cautions. The average was nine yellows per race during the first four events held at the facility.

Races held here have shown a tendency for cautions to take care of themselves so, other than for the sake of consistency, making this move was probably not even necessary.

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