Two new race dates put Martinsville in prime-time spotlight

Let there be lights.

At Martinsville Speedway, they’ll flicker on during Mother’s Day weekend for the first-ever NASCAR national series night race at the .526-mile track. Yes, we’re going night racing at Martinsville, which was on the 1949 premier series schedule in NASCAR’s first season and has stayed there ever since.

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A $5 million initiative to install an LED lighting system was completed in 2017, and was turned on during that season’s Playoffs as the race stretched into dusk. But never has a race been scheduled to start under the lights until next year in May.

“That was huge,” driver Kurt Busch said at the time. “For us (drivers), short-track racing was our start at a Saturday night bullring. A flat track like Martinsville with heavy braking under the lights, it was really cool to see all of that come together.”

Now, they’ll turn on for the entirety of the race – and on the Saturday night before Mother’s Day, May 9, 2020.

PHOTOS: Major changes for 2020 schedule

Keeping with the theme of moving dates and big-time racing, the Martinsville fall race will move from the opening race of the Round of 8 to the elimination race in the Round of 8.

Those vying for a Championship 4 spot at ISM Raceway in 2020 – ISM replaces Homestead-Miami Speedway as the location for the championship race next year – will have to earn it at one of the most technical tracks on the circuit on Nov. 1, 2020.