MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Martinsville Speedway will add lights next season, track officials announced Wednesday.
Construction is scheduled to begin the day after the Oct. 30 Sprint Cup race at the 0.526-mile oval. The track will be the first major motorsports facility in North America to have LED lighting. There will be 19 poles installed.
Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway, said the lights will be used as an “insurance policy” in case the race is delayed or goes later into the afternoon. In the Nov. 1, 2015 race, Jeff Gordon won as darkness enveloped the track.
“If we would have had one more delay, we wouldn’t have finished that race,” said Campbell, who estimated the project will cost $5 million and added it would be paid for by International Speedway Corp., which owns the track. “It’s important and critical we get those races finished.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was on hand for the announcement and likes the move.
“I think it’s great for the racetrack, and it opens up a ton of possibility for the track itself,” he said. “Martinsville is one of the very best short tracks in the country. It’s awesome, and it’s been a long time coming.
“I would say I would love to have a night race here any day of the week. Short-track racing is what this sport was born on.”
The move comes as the track prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary next year.
The 2017 race times have been set. Martinsville’s April 3 race will be at 2 p.m. ET and the Oct. 30 race will start at 1 p.m. ET
With Martinsville adding lights, tracks that host Sprint Cup races that don’t have lights are Dover International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Watkins Glen International and Sonoma Raceway.