Is NASCAR starting races too late in the day?

Following the controversial end of the Brickyard 400 last weekend, Daniel Prekopka looks at the start time of NASCAR races, and if they are being started too late in the day.

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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John's Ford, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Tide Pods Toyota, restart the field during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on July 23, 2017 in Indianapolis.

A long day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has shed light on a new issue this season in NASCAR – later start times.

Is NASCAR starting races too late in the day?

Sunday’s Brickyard 400 race started just before 3 p.m. Eastern time. It was almost dark when race winner Kasey Kahne was celebrating in victory lane. A track-record 14 cautions, including a red flag for rain early in the race and two red flags because of crashes, meant that NASCAR was racing the sunlight as much as drivers were racing for the checkers.

In fact, while a caution on the second overtime ended the race, Kahne was not close to the overtime line on the backstretch when Denny Hamlin’s car hit the wall. NASCAR waited for Kahne to pass the overtime line (meaning a caution ends the race) before waiving the yellow flag. If the caution flag had waved before he crossed the line, finishing the race before daylight expired would have been in doubt.

Count Brad Keselowski as one driver who is not a fan of the recent later start times.

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Keselowski has a point about tracks without lights. A race at Daytona or Bristol is not as much in jeopardy of being cut short or postponed due to rain and crashes because they have lights and can go past sunset.

But at tracks like IMS, the setting sun can become a major problem.

The previous week after a race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch’s wife Samantha vented her frustrations on Twitter about that 3 p.m. start.

For years, NASCAR races started at 1 p.m. at local time for the track, unless they were traditional night races. This allowed for plenty of time for track drying after rains and maintenance after crashes.

The next three races – Pocono, Watkins Glen and Michigan – also are 3 p.m. start times, so this issue is one that is not going to go away anytime soon.
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