Many people say that NASCAR races are far too long in order to keep the viewers’ attention, and the races are much longer than those in F1 and IndyCar. But just how long do the races go on for? And what distance do the drivers cover in that time?
A NASCAR race is usually around 3 to 5 hours long, but races can sometime run longer or shorter depending on the track and the weather. NASCAR races tend to be around 300-500 miles in length, while the shortest is the Bristol Dirt Race at 133.25 miles, and the longest is the 600-mile Charlotte race.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to the length of a NASCAR race. The amount of time it takes to complete the race differs between circuits, racing conditions, and weather conditions. I’ll cover all of these in more detail below.
NASCAR Racetrack Length
NASCAR ovals might all look the same, but each one is actually quite unique. Every track has its own characteristics that affect the speed and handling of the cars. Some of the tracks have a steeper banking for example, which leads to faster cornering speeds and quicker lap times.
Other circuits might have a newer tarmac laid down, which gives the cars more grip and therefore also faster lap times than a circuit with an older surface. These factors all help determine the overall length of a NASCAR race.
Longer lap times mean longer races. NASCAR tries to compensate for that by having tracks with fast laps run more of them, and tracks with longer laps (such as the road courses) tend to have the highest number of laps (the same is true in other motorsports as well). This helps keep race lengths somewhat consistent across a season. However, it can still lead to longer races if cars take longer to complete laps.
Why Do NASCAR Races Have So Many Laps?
NASCAR races usually run around 200 laps each. When you compare this to other forms of motorsport such as Formula 1, it seems like a lot. NASCAR tends to run more laps because the laps are a lot shorter.
For example, the Talladega Superspeedway is 2.66 miles long (4.28 miles). On the other hand, some tracks, like Martinsville, are only half a mile long (0.8 km). Then there are also much longer road racing circuits, which are between 2 and 4 miles long. But the majority of the NASCAR season runs on shorter circuits.
Very Short Laps
The short length of the tracks means that laps often take less than a minute to complete. These short lap times mean that the races need to have a lot more laps in order for the cars to run a meaningful distance to both provide enough entertainment for the fans and to be consistent with some of the longer tracks on the schedule.
NASCAR requires at least 120 laps (or 300 miles) to be completed in order for the final race classification to become official, meaning many NASCAR races can be 500 miles long. An exception to this is the Bristol Dirt Race, which is just over 130 miles in total length.
The Full Length Of A NASCAR Race
The full length of a NASCAR race is anywhere between 1 and a half hours and 3 hours long. However, some races can end up being much longer, even upwards of 6 hours. This can be due to various delays in the racing, or it could be that it takes this amount of time for the actual race to be completed.
NASCAR aims to provide huge entertainment value to its spectators, and so having long races means that it needs to keep things action-packed for hours at a time. Introducing stages into the racing has helped the series to break up the action into shorter bursts over a longer period of time.
NASCAR Stage Length Explained
NASCAR races are divided up into different stages, and points are awarded to the top drivers at the end of each stage. This checkpoint-esque system was introduced into NASCAR from 2017, while it is divisive among fans, drivers and teams, it has allowed drivers to earn more points in races.
Most races are divided into three separated stages, with the Charlotte race being the exception – it has 4 stages. However, since each track is a different length, the stages also differ in length at each track.
Stage Length Examples
For example, the Daytona 500 has 200 race laps in total. Stage 1 ends after 60 laps, and stage 2 ends after another 60 laps (lap 120/200), and stage 3 is the remaining 80 laps. If we take a look at a shorter racetrack, we will find a higher number of laps in each stage. For example, Martinsville Speedway runs a total of 500 laps. Stage 1 ends on lap 130, and Stage 2 runs for another 130 laps (ending on lap 260/500). The final stage is then the remaining 240 laps.
KEY POINTS• NASCAR races usually take about 3 hours to complete
• They’re typically run over the course of a few hundred laps, running to at least 300 miles in most cases
• Lots of variables affect how long a NASCAR race will be
Factors That Can Affect NASCAR Race Length
As with any form of motorsport, there can be a number of variables that delay the racing in NASCAR. In the past, we have even seen races finishing as late as midnight, even though they started in the early evening.
Cautions & Red Flags
The first and most common factor that can delay a race is an on-track incident. Crashes are fairly common in NASCAR, and they normally leave a lot of debris on the circuit, which can take some time to clean up. This brings out the caution flag or even the red flag, which stops the race until it’s safe to restart.
Oil spills need to be carefully cleaned up before racing can be resumed as well, as they could cause another accident if there is still some residual oil left on the racetrack. Sometimes the barriers and catch fences can become damaged from high impact collisions as well. It is crucial that these are repaired as it will put the spectators and the drivers in danger if they are damaged while there are cars going around the track.
Rain and other adverse weather can also heavily affect the duration of a race. Normally the race will be put on hold for a short break if there is a small rain shower. The track then needs to be dried before racing can resume. However, if there is heavy rain, it is common for the races to be suspended for several hours, or even rescheduled for the next day.
That’s because NASCAR doesn’t race in the rain, at least not on oval tracks. Wet races may take place on road courses though. If there is a heavy storm, NASCAR may decide to delay the race too. This often happens if there is lightning, for safety reasons.
NASCAR races vary in length, but the average is around 3 hours in total time. It’s not uncommon for a race to last much longer than 3 hours, and there are various factors that will affect how long the race goes on. In terms of distance, NASCAR races are usually at least 300 miles long.
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