Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What is it about night racing?

Night racing brings out the beast in race car drivers. At least, that’s what Lowe’s Motor Speedway president H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler believes.
"Night brings out an intensity in athletes you simply don't get during the day," Wheeler said. "Possibly this goes back to primitive man whose greater alertness at night often meant life or death.
"Animal behavior is certainly different in the dark. Sharks, tigers, lions and other big cats hunt primarily at night. Ask anyone who has ever hooked a big shark at night if it wasn't a great deal scarier than the same hookup in the daytime."
Leave it to Wheeler to equate racing in the Bank of America 500 at his track to caveman survival and late-night shark fishing.
Saturday night’s race is the only Chase for the Nextel Cup race that will be run completely at night, so Wheeler has spent the past couple of weeks trying to quantify what that means.
He’s right, based on every conversation I’ve ever had with a NASCAR driver, about at least one thing.
"I believe drivers can actually see and focus better on properly lit tracks," Wheeler said. "The lights here produce about 120 foot-candles of light on every part of the racing surface. Many high school baseball or football fields only produce 40 to 60 foot candles. And with the light concentrated on the racing surface, everything in the background is blacked out and the driver's eyes can focus on the surface itself."
Drivers also will tell you that one thing they really struggle with when it comes to night races is the actual waiting around part.
"On most race days, you're used to getting up at a certain time, eating at a certain time, you go check out the car," said Dr. Bill Thierfelder, a sports performance psychologist and former athlete who’s now president of Belmont Abbey College. "You have your normal flow of what you do and then it's race time and it all sequences together.
"Sometimes when a race is at night and, in a sense delayed, it can be a little challenging for an athlete because you feel like you're waiting."
Jimmie Johnson leads this year’s Chase drivers with five night victories in 36 starts – all at LMS – over the past five years. In that span, Matt Kenseth has the most top-10s at night, with 24, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 22. Both have 14 top fives, with Kenseth winning three times and Earnhardt Jr. twice. Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton are the only two Chase drivers who don’t have night wins.


okla21fan said...

Night races are like night college football games, they just 'seem' more intense. Maybe it is the optical illusion from the darker and less clearer vision. Either way, I like them, they are welcome changes to the race schedule.

Monkeesfan said...

Night racing does not bring out anything beter in the sport. Howard Wheeler's assertions about intensity are laughable. Put the races back on Sunday afternoons at 1 PM.

Mike said...

Jr has three night wins: Richmond ('04, '06) and Bristol ('04). As a fan I love night racing, although I realize it hurts local tracks. I especially appreciated a night race when I went to Phoenix this spring.

TalkGeorge said...

I just like the look and feel of night person and on the telly!

Just heard David Ragan will drive the #6 next year. Who the heck is David Ragan? I would have cut to four cars and moved McMurray there!

Monkeesfan said...

clemenson1, once you get beyond the novelty of the lights, the sparks, and so forth, we don't get anything better. And night races rob a lot of atmosphere from the day - they're claustrophobic whereas day races offer a reassuring atmosphere; also, when you look at old races, daylight races allow you to see the changes that evolve to a track whereas night races allow no such view of subtle changes to the area.