Following Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500, Martinsville Speedway will begin the process of adding LED lighting.
The modern-age addition is part of a $5 million capital investment project as NASCAR’s oldest track will mark it’s 70th anniversary next season. Martinsville will also be the first major racing facility in North America to add LED lighting.
Although the lights will be ready to go, Martinsville will still play host to a pair of day races as the 2017 Sprint Cup Series schedule and start times have already been determined.
But that doesn’t stop Team Penske driver and Chase for the Sprint Cup Round of 8 contender Joey Logano from being excited about it.
“I think that’s neat,” said Logano. “Martinsville is the most grassroots race track that we come to. There obviously is a lot of history at this track, but we all grew up racing at tracks like this. We all grew up racing on paved short-track ovals, so it brings you kind of back to home. I think racing a night race at Martinsville would be super cool.
Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is also looking forward to the new lighting technology, and he doesn’t feel it will affect the racing compared to the changes seen on 1.5-mile tracks.
“One and one half-mile tracks lights seem to be a bit of a problem from the quality of racing,” Johnson said. “The temperatures go down; the preferred lane is on the bottom. I’m not sure it is the best for the type of racing our fans want to see. On a short track, especially here, I don’t think that is going to make a big difference.
Five-time Martinsville winner and Virginia native Denny Hamlin is also on board with the addition.
It’ll be huge for the speedway for sure,” Hamlin said. “I know night racing is always more exciting.”
Logano anticipates racing at night will have minor effects on the half-mile short track.
“It’s gonna change the race some because I think this track is pretty sensitive to heat and how it rubbers up,” Logano said. “When you don’t have the sun on it, it’s not gonna rubber up as much, so depending on when the race is and the temperature of it during the day will have an effect on that, but night racing is cool to me.”
Although we have yet to know what the future holds for Martinsville and potential night racing, Logano imagines it will be a sight to see.
“Obviously, you’d have the sparks and there’s plenty of bumping and banging as there is, but I think having a race at night just kind of adds something to that,” Logano added. “It’s pretty cool.”
Johnson added that it will also give NASCAR more options in the event that weather plays a factor during a Martinsville race weekend in the future.
“I think it is going to be very cool to have it. Certainly opens up the window if we have any weather, we can get the race in and things like that. So glowing brakes rotors here we come.”
And Hamlin agreed.
“Hopefully it’s during the time of the year where it’s not freezing cold at night. That’d be ideal,” Hamlin said. “I think the biggest thing is that it gives us a bigger window in case of weather. This race track has really been hampered by weather over these past few years and it really gives us a time opening to finish these races. Every year, it gets pushed back a little bit more and we start to fight daylight at the end. Last year was nearly dark when it finished. The lights will be a cool addition.”