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How Many Hours Is A NASCAR Race?

As with any sport, NASCAR races take a specific amount of time to complete. Many people say that the races are far too long in order to keep the viewers’ attention. NASCAR races tend to be longer than other motorsports such as Formula 1 and IndyCar.

The usual NASCAR race lasts around 3 hours. However, races can sometime run for longer. The races are split into different stages, where points are awarded in each stage. The length of races can be affected by weather and red flags

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. There have been races in the past that lasted upwards of 6 hours.

The Racetracks

NASCAR Ovals might all look incredibly similar. However, each one is actually different. Each circuit has its own characteristics which affects the overall speed and length of the circuit. Some of the racetracks have a steeper banking which leads to faster 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 which has an older layout. In the bigger picture,these factors all lead to determining the overall length of a NASCAR race.

Longer lap times mean longer races. NASCAR compensates that with less laps in order to try and keep most races the same length timewise (as well as distance). However, it can still lead to longer races if cars take longer to complete laps.

Why So Many Laps?

NASCAR races usually run around 200 laps per race. When you compare this to other forms of motorsport such as Formula 1, it seems like a lot. NASCAR tends to run a lot more laps because the laps are a lot shorter.

The length of stock car racing circuits varies. For example, the Talladega Superspeedway is 2.66 miles long. Shorter circuits such as Martinsville are around 0.500 miles long. Then there are also much longer road racing circuits which are between 2 and 4 miles long. Majority of the NASCAR season uses 1.5-mile circuits.

The short length of thee circuits means that the lap times are usually below 1 minute long. These short and quick lap times mean that the races need to have a lot more laps in order for the cars to run the same distance as other forms of motorsport.

NASCAR requires at least 120 laps (or 300 miles) to be completed in order for the final race classification to become official. This means that the race would have to surpass stage 2 in order to become official.

Stages

NASCAR races are divided up into different stages, and points are awarded to the top drivers at the end of each stage. This ‘checkpoint’ system was introduced into NASCAR from 2017 and has helped to keep the racing entertaining and give opportunities for different drivers to score more points.

The stages concept is an interesting one. The races are divided into three separated ‘stages. However, since each racetrack is a different length, the point at which each stage intersects is different with each circuit they attend.

For example, the Daytona 500 race has 200 total race laps. Stage 1 ends after 60 laps, 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. For example, Martinsville Speedway runs a total of 500 laps. Stage 1 ends on lap 130. Stage 2 runs or another 130 laps (ends lap 260/500). The final stage is then the remaining 240 laps.

Points are awarded for the top 10 finishers in both stages 1 and 2. The final stage awards points for the 10 finishers, as well as bonus Playoff points. Playoff points are also awarded to the ‘stage winners’ (the drivers leading the race at the end of a stage). The playoff points are added up towards the end of the season, and the top 10 drivers are entered into a shootout to win the Championship.

This style of championship creates something different to anything else in the motorsport world. The series awards points in the middle of a race, and a champion cannot be crowned until the final race of the season (no Lewis Hamilton winning the championship with 3 races left in the calendar for example). This means that even if a driver wins every single race of the regular season, they can still lose out on the championship if they do not perform in the playoffs.

This affects the length of the races themselves as there are stoppages after each stage in the racing. These stoppages mean that extra time is added onto the race, making it longer. The stoppages have been helpful to drivers who perhaps had a bad start or a difficult time in the previous stages.

The Full Length

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 provides huge entertainment value to its spectators, and therefore having long races means that it needs to have an action-packed racing series. Introducing stages into the racing has helped the series to ‘break up’ the action into shorter bursts over a longer period of time, which has been successful.

Factors That Can Affect Length

As with any form of motorsport, there can be a number of variables that delay the racing. These delays can of course cause the race to become much longer. At the end of the day, the race needs to be completed, and in the past,  we have even seen races finishing as late as midnight (after racing commenced in the early afternoon).

The first, and most common factor that can delay a race is an accident. Crashes are fairly common in stock car racing, and they normally leave a bit of debris on the circuit which can take some time to clean up.

In addition, more severe impacts can cause oil spills or fires which also need to be dealt with. Oil spills need to be carefully cleaned up before racing can be resumed 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. 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 adverse weather can also heavily affect the duration of a race. Normally in NASCAR 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 are heavy rains and highly adverse weather conditions, it is common for the races to be suspended for several hours, or even rescheduled for the next day.

Final Thoughts

NASCAR races vary in length. Your average race will be around 3 hours in total time. However, there can be some delays in the racing, and some races have lasted upwards of 6 hours and gone on late into the night.

It’s not uncommon for a race to last much longer than 3 hours, and if you plan on watching a race, you should definitely clear your schedule for the whole day, and perhaps even the next day in case the race is suspended and rescheduled!