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Is 500 Laps too Long at Martinsville?

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Joshua Lipowski

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Race lengths in NASCAR have been the subject of much scrutiny for years now, and NASCAR has gone so far as to shorten up some race lengths in recent years. However, one race that has stayed at its’ original long length is the fall Martinsville race, which will be 500 laps long. This race routinely takes over three and a half hours to complete, but, is it too long? Let’s take a look at both sides.

Why It Should Be Shortened

Shorter Races Creates More Urgency

When a race is longer, drivers tend to cruise around throughout the first half to three-quarters of the race just to get to the end. That is not as exciting to watch as drivers being aggressive towards the end of the race. A shorter race means drivers have less time to cruise around, and they have to go from the beginning.

A prime example of this is the rain-shortened Atlanta race in July. The race was exciting throughout because of the threat of rain, which shortened the race. This forced the drivers to race hard throughout the day instead of just cruising around.

How Much Does Endurance Really Matter in Modern NASCAR?

The reason why races were set at 500 laps or 500 miles was because it was an endurance test for the race cars and the drivers. The races were not just about running faster than everybody else, rather, they were about getting the car and the driver to the end of the race in the most efficient manner. Nowadays, the cars and drivers are more durable than ever before.

It’s just not the endurance test it once was particularly for the cars. For the drivers, it is still an endurance test, but the cars don’t have as many easily breakable components as they once did. What is the need to push it that far if it can generally make it?

Does This Race Really NEED To Be 3.5 or 4 Hours?

On top of that, do races really need to be this long? IndyCar races are usually between two and two and a half hours, and Formula One has a two-hour time limit for each race. Most F1 races are over in about 90 minutes.

Even looking at other sports, most sporting events that extend past three hours are considered long. Does NASCAR really NEED to have a race like this at Martinsville? Yes, the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, and Southern 500 are understandable because those are Crown Jewels, but the fall race at Martinsville does not fall into that category.

Why It Should Not Be Shortened

Distinguishes it From the Spring Race

A simple way to distinguish one event from another if a race track has two events is to change the race length. Daytona and Darlington have one 500-mile race and one 400-mile race, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway used to have their summer race be 301 laps with their fall race being 300 laps. Martinsville is the same way.

If you prefer a shorter race with heightened intensity throughout as a result, the spring race is perfect for you. If you prefer a longer endurance race, then the fall race is perfect for you. It allows fans to see a slightly different event depending on the time of year you go to the track.

It’s the Playoffs, and Playoff Races Should be Long and Difficult

When drivers get to this critical point of the season, these should be some of the toughest tests the drivers have had all season long. These races should be diverse, and they should be difficult. A long race at Martinsville is a great test for drivers trying to get to the Championship 4.

They have to negotiate one of NASCAR’s most physically and mentally demanding race tracks over 500 laps. If you conquer it, you make it to the Championship 4 at Phoenix. This race should be a long and difficult race because that is what drivers should have to work through to win a Championship.

The More NASCAR, the Merrier

Some may complain about races being 3.5 or 4 hours long, but what is wrong with more NASCAR? That extra time is not dead time such as in baseball. It’s time that generally features extra racing.

What’s there to complain about with more racing? That’s what fans come to watch after all?

Well, should this race be added to the list of shorter races? There are pros and cons to both sides, but which side do the fans land on?

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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