Tha Sports Junkies 101

Night Time May Not Be The Right Time For NASCAR Fans Anymore


For most NASCAR drivers, the journey to the achieve their goals of competing at the highest levels begins at a local short track. Which, save for a handful of exceptions, hold their slate of events on either Friday or Saturday night. Night races often seem to bring out a different element in drivers. It’s about the atmosphere as much as it is about the action and those two factors each seem to enhance the other.

Lately, however, more and more fans seem to be expressing that they are no longer in awe of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races that are held under the lights.

Not so long ago, the night race Bristol was the hottest ticket in the sport, with the waiting list years in length. The 1992 All Star Race was the first at night and one of the most exciting in history. When the July race at Daytona International Speedway was moved to Saturday night, thousands showed up to watch the first test laps run under the new Musco lighting. The hype was incredible and track owners across the sport began installing lights and switching from day to evening start times.

Everyone will have theories as to why night races have seemingly fallen out of favor. My impression is one that I’ve gathered from the positive fan reaction to one recent event in particular. A night race, oddly enough. But a different kind of one.


Last year, Darlington held its initial “throwback” weekend, with crews wearing uniforms resembling those of the past and drivers wheeling their current cars painted with iconic schemes from NASCAR history. The event was an overwhelming success. Many fans long for the “good ol days”, a bygone era that they remember so fondly. Darlington gave them a piece of that.

However, night races in Sprint Cup are a modern phenomenon. In 1996, there were only 3 races on the schedule that were run under the lights. In 2015, 8 races were started at 6pm or later local time. And this is after some tracks, such as Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway, went back to daylight events after running in the evening for some time.

To many long-time fans, Sunday afternoon is how races were run in the good ol days. It’s a tradition that an ever-increasing number of them seem to hope returns in the near future.