Although it once claimed the title for the most popular spectator sport in America, NASCAR stock car racing has been losing viewership over the past several years, and its executives are looking for ways to revive the popularity of the once-burgeoning sport. The half-mile Martinsville Speedway in Virginia may have found the answer in LED lighting. In October 2016, the Track’s operators announced that they were budgeting $5 million to install an LED lighting system as a safety net for times when races run into the evening hours, and to add the potential for evening motorsports events.
Martinsville’s LED system will include 750 LED fixtures, each of which includes 144 separate LED lights that generate an aggregate of 115,000 lumens for each 1,000 watts of input power. Compare these figures to the metal halide lighting system that was installed on the two-and-a-half mile oval at Daytona in 1998. Daytona’s system used 1,932 fixtures and 150 miles of wire, and consumed 3.5 million watts of power every hour. Each of Daytona’s fixtures generated only 18,000 lumens. Martinsville’s LED fixtures consume far less electricity and generate substantially more light than their metal halide forebears.
The concept of lighting motorsports venues is not new, but using LED lighting for that purpose is an untested premise. Motorsports athletes compete in high-speed races that require their absolute concentration and the best possible lighting to give them all the visual information they need to react to split-second changes in track and race configurations. Dark spots and shadows on a motorsports racetrack can have devastating consequences for drivers who are operating vehicles well in excess of 100 miles per hour. LED’s can be configured to generate bright, uniform lighting across the entire surface of a racing venue to give drivers the safest environments in which to compete.
As the experiences of Daytona and Martinsville illustrate, lighting motorsports race tracks poses greater challenges than illuminating other outdoor sports venues such as football or baseball stadiums. Those stadiums may be large, but they rarely encompass as much surface area as a motorsports racing oval. LED motorsports lighting reduces the size problem to something that is more manageable, even at smaller motorsports venues that do not have the global reputations of Daytona and Martinsville among motorsports fans. Racetrack operators will still need to budget for the upfront costs of an LED motorsports lighting system, but they can more than recover those costs over a two- or three-year period through increased nighttime utility of the racing facilities and better attendance at a well-lit facility.
Motorsports venues can also point to LED lighting in response to criticisms that their competitions are less than environmentally friendly. LED’s impose a substantially lower demand on power generation plants, incorporate no hazardous materials that might contaminate landfills, and are more targeted and directional to avoid excessive light pollution, particularly when that light is being generated to illuminate a large motorsports venue.
Motorsports lighting with LED technology is still in its early phase, but motorsports enthusiasts know that LED’s are more than a fad at racing venues. As early adopters demonstrate the advantages of LED motorsport lighting, other venues are likely to add their own LED lighting to help the sport resume its prior growth trajectory. SpecGrade LED in Columbus, Ohio, is a premier manufacturer and designer of LED lighting systems for all sports venues, including motorsports racetracks. For more information on LED motosports lighting options for your venue, please see our website or call 888-534-7657 to speak with one of our motorsports lighting specialists.