Martinsville could see its first NASCAR Cup night race this weekend

Is iconic Martinsville (Va.) Speedway set to host its first ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series night race?

Martinsville could see its first NASCAR Cup night race this weekend
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As Sunday’s First Data 500 draws nearer, the weather forecasts seem to indicate that could well be a distinct possibility.

When Martinsville added its $5 million LED lighting system this season, the track did not change its two daytime races to night events but planned to use it as an “insurance policy” for weather delays.

As of Wednesday afternoon, several forecasts show at least an 80 percent chance of rain Sunday at Martinsville, with the bad weather not likely to taper off until the evening.

Not only could race end under the lights – it was already slated to start after 3 p.m. ET – the entire 500-lap event could now run at night.

Playoff driver Kevin Harvick foresees a perfect storm of issues teams could face this weekend.

“We’ve all never made one lap at night. You don’t really know what to expect,” said Harvick, one of eight drivers remaining in the 2017 championship hunt. “There might be some guys who have run Late Models there, but they’ve never raced there at night, either.

“It’s very interesting that this all comes at this particular point in the year. You just have to try and take everything in and balance it all as best you can.” 

Martinsville hosted its first exclusive night race on Sept. 23, the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, NASCAR’s biggest Late Model Stock car race.

There are other changes this weekend as well. The Cup series is scheduled as a two-day show, with practice sessions Saturday and qualifying set for Sunday morning before the race.

Inclement weather early Sunday could jeopardize qualifying, as well as the start of the race. Also, much colder weather is expected this weekend, with highs in the low 50s.

“It’s a very complicated weekend looking at all the different scenarios that you have going on,” Harvick explained. “Usually when there is rain at Martinsville, we just figure we’ll go up there and race on Monday, but now they have lights. So, if it does get delayed, we may have to run at night. The biggest issue with that is all of our practice will be run on Saturday.

“It’s going to be a cool weekend up there, which typically means that the track won’t have a lot of rubber on it because the track won’t take a lot of rubber if it’s cold. Martinsville is a pretty finicky race track when it comes to temperature and rubber on the race track.”

Harvick advanced to the Round of 8 following an eighth-place finish last Sunday at Kansas Speedway. His second-place qualifying effort at Kansas will carry over to Martinsville as teams’ qualifying effort from last weekend will be used to select pit stalls this weekend because of the scheduled Sunday qualifying.

“I think right now you just have to approach it as, whatever you have to do to get the best finish for your team, is what you have to do at this particular point,” Harvick said. “The goal is to get to Homestead and we have three races to do that.”

 

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