Thursday, April 7, 2011

500 miles at night usually brings good, solid racing

A 500-mile race like the one coming up at Texas on Saturday night is an endurance test, even today with all of the fancy engine and cooling technology on the cars, and this type of race is also nice because people don’t have to panic and be up on the chip at the very beginning of the race.

So to begin the first of the season that hasn't been run on Sunday afternoon, it’s time to shine the cars up and go racing under the lights.

The daylight portion of the first half of the season is over, and NASCAR will turn on the lights Saturday night to begin a stretch of the schedule where six of the next eight races are at night.

For the first time in several years, every race up to April has been at the 1 p.m. local time start since Phoenix moved into the second spot on the schedule and Fontana took the final March weekend.

As come the night races, so does the second stretch of the season. Yes, we had an off week in the second weekend of March, but that was still in the middle of the early season.

We are now getting close to the point where the season is no longer considered new and it is time to hit the long grind that is the summer stretch. If the All-Star Race is included, there isn’t another weekend after Easter without Cup racing until the weekend of July 24.

This weekend is also the second 1.5-mile speedway of the season. The Fords were incredibly strong at the other mile-and-a-half track of the season, Las Vegas, and Carl Edwards won the race, and Greg Biffle certainly could have if he hadn’t had problems in the pits.

If the Ford power shows itself again this weekend, and it looks like it will, as David Ragan was fastest in practice Thursday, this could really be a dogfight into the summer among the Chevrolets of Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports and the Fords of Roush Fenway Racing.

The Joe Gibbs Racing camp has struggled with engine issues early this season, but once those get worked out the Gibbs cars will be fighting for wins, as well, and they have in several races already.

So sit back and enjoy the first Saturday night race of the season. It should be a show. These 500-mile races at tracks such as Texas, Atlanta and Charlotte always seem to bring out some of the best racing, a large part of which is because of the length of the race.

People love to say they want the drivers to drive like crazy from the start of the race, but a large part of a race is also about the flow that develops in green-flag runs, similar to the pace of a baseball game.

Don’t worry, there will be plenty of cautions throughout the night and at night’s end everyone will be on their feet cheering or yelling at the TV, but the journey there is important and it’s part of the fun.


  1. Not sure how this race will go - no one has any notes for night racing in Texas so I'd guess the ones who typically run well there will be a two-step ahead!

  2. I'm ready for some Texas night racing. The Indy cars are so exciting there at night.

    It was nice to see Sam Hornish fastest in one of the NW practices.

  3. klvalus - lol. Hopefully the lack of notes doesn't mean Hendrick domination. That's what usually happens when something new happens in NASCAR, but this isn't as drastic a change and the cars have finished Texas races at night before.

    Gene - It's going to be fast, that's for sure. If it's anything like Charlotte and Atlanta night races, we are in for a treat.