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Did You Notice? NASCAR Has Been Quietly Shortening Their Races

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

Iowa Speedway announced a sold-out crowd and the race name for their inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race, the Iowa Corn 350. Fans on social media were surprised, and some were upset at the relatively short race length of 350 laps. It is a short race, and it is part of a general trend NASCAR has set in recent years.

You Need to Know:

  • Iowa Speedway hosts its first NASCAR Cup Series race on June 16, 2023 at 7:00 pm ET. It will be the first race of the NBC portion of the schedule. It’s the first time any NASCAR series has raced at the track since 2019.
  • The race length is set at 350 laps and 306.25 miles. Some fans argued that the race should be 400 laps, and others talked about their dislike of shorter races.
  • It’s worth noting that the race is longer in terms of mileage than Richmond’s and Gateway’s 300-mile events. However, some fans still argued that the race was too short. Well, NASCAR has quietly been shortening their races in recent years.

How Much Has NASCAR Shortened Their Races in Recent Years?

Quietly, NASCAR has shortened many of their races over the years. In 1993, 18 of the 30 (60%) races on the schedule were advertised as 500+ miles or laps, and NASCAR began to slowly shorten races they deemed were too long. In 1994, Darlington’s spring race was shortened from 500 miles to 400 miles, likely done to distinguish it from the Southern 500 to some extent.

However, NASCAR did not stop there. In the late 1990s, the 2 races held at Dover Motor Speedway and Rockingham Speedway were shortened from 500 miles to 400 miles. To this day, Dover remains a 400-mile race.

This trend continued during NASCAR’s boom. Six new race tracks opened up between 1997 and 2001 including Texas, California, Las Vegas, Homestead-Miami, Chicagoland, and Kansas. Four of those tracks were given 400-mile races from the outset with only Texas and California, both opened in 1997, getting 500-mile races.

By 2010, only 16 of 36 (44%) points races were advertised at 500 miles or laps. Throughout the 2010s and early 2020s, races at California, Pocono, Atlanta, Martinsville, and Texas were all shortened to 400 miles or laps from the traditional 500. NASCAR shortened Pocono races to as short as 325 miles during the doubleheader weekends in 2020 and 2021.

In 2024, only 8 of 36 (22%) points races will be 500+ miles or laps long. No new track since Texas and California opened in 1997 has hosted a 500-mile or lap race. The bottom line is that, over the years, NASCAR has quietly shortened many of their races.

How Iowa’s Race Length Compares

Now, Iowa does fall into this category to some extent. Since 1997, Iowa has been the second-shortest NASCAR race at a new oval track (306.25 miles), only trailing Gateway (300 miles). However, Iowa’s length is pretty similar to the average NASCAR race at Iowa’s track type.

Iowa is 0.875 miles, and it compares best to tracks like Richmond, Phoenix, New Hampshire, and Gateway. All of these races are around or just above 300 miles in length. Richmond and Gateway are 300 miles, Phoenix is 312 miles, and New Hampshire is 318.46 miles. Iowa is 306.25 miles long, which is 350 laps.

These races are all shorter because they are all relatively flat and shorter race tracks with relatively low speeds. A 400-mile race at these tracks would take over 3 hours with no cautions, and a 500-mile race would take over 4 hours with no cautions. In that sense, Iowa fits within the mold, albeit on the low end of it.

While Iowa may not be revolutionary in terms of race length, it does symbolize NASCAR’s recent trend. NASCAR is quietly shortening many of their races.

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Joshua Lipowski

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