The night race at Darlington Raceway will now start at 7 p.m. ET instead of the Sprint Cup Series' standard night race start time of 7:30 p.m.
Why was the move made? Well, the marathon 500 mile (plus one) race at Darlington has taken nearly four hours to complete the past two years and the 2009 race was even longer, clocking it at a whopping 4:11.
"We were able to move it 30 minutes, which is good," Darlington Raceway President Chris Browning said. "We're pleased about that. I think it will help our fans to get out of here a little bit quicker. That's really good for us.
"We were shooting for sometime around 11 o'clock [finish]. That is something the fans had asked for in our post-event surveys the last couple of years."
Changing the length of the race, Browning said, wasn't something that was considered, due to the tradition of the Southern 500. However, the Southern 500 was traditionally held on Labor Day weekend. That date went to Auto Club Speedway in California, and now Atlanta Motor Speedway hosts the Cup race on that weekend. When Darlington had two Cup Series events, the spring race had been 400 miles.
Pocono Raceway, a track that has been the brunt of many a snoozefest joke, announced in August that its two races would be shortened from 500 to 400 miles for 2012.
Moving up the start time of the Darlington race was the right move, as no race should ever end near midnight on the East Coast unless weather or some other delay is involved. And moving to shorten the race wouldn't have been the best course of action either. While some races could stand to be shorter -- Pocono made the right call -- there still needs to be some 500-mile races on the Sprint Cup circuit. And given Darlington's status and legend, it deserves to keep a 500-mile race.
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