Anyone familiar with NASCAR races is likely aware of many marquee races like the Daytona 500. However, the idea of a 500-mile race may sound like it’ll go on for hours with no apparent end. You might be surprised to hear that such a long race can pass in just a few hours.
While the average length of most NASCAR races is around 400 miles, there is some variance between events. Here’s how long most NASCAR events are so you know what to expect if you visit the race track or tune in on Sunday.
What is the Average Distance for a NASCAR Race?
One of the unique features of NASCAR is that there’s no mandated track size or distance. Each event has a unique distance, which helps establish the number of laps the cars take around the track.
For example, two 500 mile races happen each year at Talladega Superspeedway, the Geico 500, and the YellaWood 500. NASCAR drivers go around the 2.66-mile track 188 times to complete the 500-mile race during these races.
The NASCAR Cup Series features both oval races and road races on its schedule. Road races tend to be shorter than oval races because it takes the NASCAR cars longer to go around a road course. For example, Toyota/Savemart 350, which takes place in Sonoma, California, is only 218 miles long to account for slower driving on the road course.
How Much Time Does it Take to Finish a NASCAR Race?
There’s no time limit on how long a NASCAR race can take. However, most races finish in about two hours, but some can take as long as six. Like the CocaCola 600, some races may take longer because the vehicles have to cover a longer distance. Meanwhile, other races are so short they can be completed in under two hours.
Recently, NASCAR has sought to appeal to a broader audience of fans who may not want to watch an extended race on Sunday. As a result, the organization has put on shorter races, like the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles in 2022. The Verizon 200 at the Brickyard in Indianapolis, and the Food City Dirt Race in Bristol, Tennessee, are shorter races during the NASCAR season.
How Fast do Stock Cars Complete a Lap?
Stock cars may look like your average Toyota or Chevrolet, but they’re anything but ordinary. On many oval courses, racers push these cars to the limit, sending them down straightaways at speeds over 200 miles per hour.
On a 2.5 mile track, like the Tri-Oval at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, NASCAR fans will see their favorite drivers pass them in under a minute.
A few short tracks on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule have drivers completing laps in seconds. For example, Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia, is just over half a mile long, making it the shortest track in NASCAR. Joey Logano holds the lap record for a qualifying run at the track, completing one loop in under 19 seconds.
What Can Impact the Length of a NASCAR Race?
One of the exciting parts of watching a NASCAR race is that you never quite know when or how it will end. There’s no time limit on how long a race can take. That means that some races can take only a few hours, and some can take all day.
There are countless reasons that a NASCAR race can go long. Races can be delayed due to accidents, safety concerns, and weather. Here’s how each of these situations can impact the length of a NASCAR race.
Stock car racing is an aggressive style that often involves pushing and rubbing to gain track position. That physical style of racing often contributes to a high rate of accidents.
After a collision occurs, it’s not unusual for race leaders to force the drivers to slow down or even stop racing while safety crews clear the raceway of debris. If there’s a safety car on the track, the race often slows down, which means laps get finished slower, and the racing time gets extended.
Race leaders may delay or pause a race if there needs to be any repairs or cleanups done on the track. A speedway’s barriers or catch fence can often sustain damage from cars rubbing against it, which must be repaired to maintain safety for all drivers and team members. That means the race is in a pause so crews can work on the track.
Weather can derail a NASCAR Cup Series race. Several races go into delays or postponements for days after starting due to rain. While some motorsport federations race in the rain, NASCAR will not due to safety reasons. After the rain stops, race officials will then dry the track, adding to the time needed to restart the race.
What can Drivers Do When Races are in a Delay?
Several rules dictate what a driver can and can’t do during delayed races. Some racing teams may use the time that a race is under caution or safety car to take a valuable pit stop. Changing tires and refueling a vehicle while under caution is a great way to stay with the lead cars, as they move slower at that time.
Under many circumstances, drivers must stay in their cars during delays. Staying in the car is a rule set by NASCAR to make sure that the race can start and stop quickly. It also can help keep drivers safe. Since drivers are often stuck in their cars, they often can’t go to the bathroom. That means they may go in their race suit.
When Would the Race Stop?
One scenario that allows drivers to leave their cars is during a red flag. These situations stop the race entirely and can come into play during extensive NASCAR track repairs or weather. During red flags, drivers can use the facilities or eat a meal, which gives them a well-needed break before returning to the car.
What is the Longest Race in the NASCAR Cup Championship?
During the NASCAR Cup Series, the longest race is the CocaCola 600, held every year at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. The race is so long that many people think it should not be on the calendar. In 2020, the race made NASCAR history when it became the longest NASCAR event. A late spin caused the race to go into overtime, adding five laps and seven miles of distance. Brad Keselowski won after 607 miles of racing, beating long-time fan favorite Jimmie Johnson.
However, while the CocaCola 600 is the longest race in the distance, it doesn’t stack up against the longest race by time. That race is the 2020 EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, which was a playoff race that year. After completing 52 laps, the race entered a rain delay, which lasted for nearly 48 hours. The race started on a Sunday and finished on a Wednesday.
Conclusion About How Long is a NASCAR Race?
One of the biggest criticisms of NASCAR is just how long it takes to finish a race. That’s because countless different variables impact how races play out. While many races can finish in under two and a half hours, it can feel like most of them can go well into the afternoon or evening.
That’s a long time for a racing fan to devote to one piece of media. As a result, NASCAR constantly adds shorter races to its schedule, which help appear to a broader range of fans.