Why Martinsville adding lights is a very good thing

An artists conception of the new LED lighting system at Martinsville was released Wednesday (Getty Images)
An artists conception of the new LED lighting system at Martinsville was released Wednesday (Getty Images)
An artists conception of the new LED lighting system at Martinsville was released Wednesday (Getty Images)

NASCAR’s oldest and shortest track will soon be shining.  Martinsville Speedway announced Wednesday that the .526 mile track will soon be lit with LED lights. The $5 million project revealed Wednesday by track President Clay Campbell as part of the announcement of the track’s 70th anniversary in 2017 will make the historic speedway the first in North America with LED lighting.

Construction on the new lighting system will begin the day after the Oct. 30 Sprint Cup race.

The addition of lights however won’t mean racing under those lights, at least in the near future.  The start times for NASCAR races in 2017 have already been set. The Cup race in spring will start at 2:00 p.m. ET with the fall race starting at 1:00 p.m. ET.

The lights aren’t meant to make night racing the norm, instead they are more of an “insurance policy”. Several times in the track’s history, races have been forced to “race the sun”. With no lights, a setting sun made conditions more difficult. The new lighting system will eliminate this possibility.

Last fall, Jeff Gordon won a dramatic after several delays that nearly forced the race to end prematurely due to darkness.   The race is part of NASCAR’s Chase.

“If we would have had one more delay, we wouldn’t have finished that race,” said Campbell. “It’s important and critical we get those races finished.”

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was present for Wednesday’s announcement. He won his first Martinsville race in the fall of 2014.

“I think it’s great for the racetrack and it opens up a ton of possibility for the track itself,” Earnhardt said. “Martinsville is one of the very best short tracks in the country. It’s awesome and it’s been a long time coming.”

“I would love to have a night race here any day of the week,” he added. “Short track racing is what this sport was born on.”

While there are no night races scheduled for the immediate future for Martinsville, however the ability to not have to worry about darkness shortening a race gives the track more options.  Should weather delay a future race, should the need arise, fans and competitors at Martinsville will now be able to say, “We’ve got lights.”

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