Let there be light. Or lights. And lots of them.
The $5 million project to add lighting to historic Martinsville Speedway has reached completion, track president Clay Campbell told FOX Sports Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.
Campbell said his team ran a full test last Tuesday of the new LED lighting system, which consists of 19 poles around the paperclip-shaped, .526-mile short track.
“We had all the key stakeholders there, and the TV people said, ‘All we can say is it’s awesome. We’ve never seen anything like it,’ “ Campbell said.
For Campbell, the grandson of track founder H. Clay Earles, the test was the culmination of a transformation at the facility that he admits he finds difficult to take in. Martinsville has been running races since 1947 and is the only track in existence that has hosted at least one NASCAR race every year since the governing body’s creation in 1949.
But until this year, none of them have been run under the lights.
“We’re really excited about it,” Campbell said. “To see that place under the lights is phenomenal. With this new technology of LED lights, we’re the first motorsports stadium in the country with LED lights and it’s really spectacular to see it lit up.
“You can do so many things with those lights, but there’s not a shadow on the track. It’s better than daylight. We’re really looking forward to running at night with it. I think the fans are really going to like it.”
Despite the lighting system being in place, the April 1 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville is not scheduled to be run at night. Neither is the Camping World Truck Series race scheduled for one day earlier.
Campbell said the first full races scheduled for night-time action will be in September when the track hosts a NASCAR Late Model weekend.
“We’re looking forward to that – because that’s where those guys came from,” Campbell said. “They’re used to Saturday night racing, and the fans, too. We think they’re deserving of having the first race under the lights, so that will be our first one.”
Shortly thereafter, the NASCAR Cup Series will get its first taste of racing after sunset at Martinsville on Oct. 29. That race is scheduled to start in daylight at 3 p.m., but will end under the lights.
Campbell said there will be an official “lighting ceremony” next Thursday, with local dignitaries in attendance and fans welcome to take their cars on the track. Gates will open at 6 p.m. ET, with the lights set to be turned on around 7 p.m.
He said those who attend will be surprised by what they see.
“It really changed the looks of the place, even in the daytime,” Campbell said. “With all the light poles around it now, it makes it look like a different facility day or night. It has just changed the whole complexion of it.”