NASCAR officials discussed ending Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway because of darkness, a series official told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told “The Morning Drive” that officials had conversations toward the end of the race of what to do should the race be extended by a lengthy caution or a green-white-checkered.
The race started at 1:24 p.m. ET. Sunday marked the end of daylight savings time. That meant the sun set in Martinsville at 5:24 p.m. ET. With overcast skies, it grew darker quicker. Martinsville Speedway is one of four tracks in the Chase that does not have lights.
Eighteen cautions and a red flag of 12 minutes and 46 seconds after Matt Kenseth intentionally wrecked Joey Logano, pushed the end of the race close sunset. Sam Hornish Jr.’s accident brought out the final caution on Lap 495, setting the race for a two-lap shootout.
“It was dark,’’ said Martin Truex Jr., who finished sixth. “It was getting borderline where we had to quit.’’
Said winner Jeff Gordon in Victory Lane; “It’s so dark out there I could hardly see.’’
If there had been a caution on the first lap of the restart, the race might have ended instead of going to the first of three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish.
“We did have some conversations very likely that was our last shot at getting it in,’’ O’Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “If we would have gone to a long caution, I think that might have been it. We talked about it, if we had to go to a green-white-checkered earlier, what could we do, how long did we have?
“Our scoring system has it built in that we knew that we would finish, if everything stayed green, around 5:23, so we felt that was kind of the cutoff. A lot of dialogue going on, but it worked out, which was great and certainly great for the race fans.’’
The final two laps were run without incident and the 500-lap race was completed.
The close call, though, has officials pondering an earlier start time for this race next year.
“I think that’s something we’ll look at certainly with the race track and see what we can do for 2016,’’ O’Donnell said. “We always want to get the full laps in for the fans.’’