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.”

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.