NASCAR promised major changes to its schedule in 2020, and one of those changes comes to Martinsville Speedway.
The spring race at The Paperclip in 2020 will be run on Mother's Day weekend, with the Cup Series race on Saturday, May 9. The race will be a night race, run under the new permanent lights installed in 2017.
The move to early May is more than a month later into the season than previous spring races at Martinsville, which have run the third weekend of March the last two seasons.
“This is a very exciting day for Martinsville Speedway,” Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said in a release. “It’s a question we’ve gotten from fans literally every day since we installed the lights and we are now able to say, ‘May 9, 2020.’ So, this is a very exciting day for everyone involved.”
Until this point, the only races at Martinsville run completely under the lights have been the 2017 and 2018 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 late model races.
“Fans showed us that they support night racing here during the last two ValleyStar Credit Union 300 weekends,” Campbell said. “We hope they will enjoy the Cup Series under the lights just as much and will come see us next May.”
NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said on NASCAR's telecast of the announcement that he thinks the change at Martinsville is "going to be awesome."
"You look at Martinsville, we just had a terrific race there," O'Donnell said. "It's a short track, which the fans love. (President) Clay (Campbell) has always had a late model event there under the lights. It's been a huge success and there's been more and more clamoring from the fans, 'hey, can we race the Cup there under the lights?' And we were able to deliver. On a Saturday night, that's going to be terrific."
Other changes to the NASCAR schedule include a move from Homestead Miami to ISM Raceway in Phoenix for the championship race at the end of the season. Martinsville's fall race will serve as the penultimate race of the season before the finale. The fall race at Martinsville will take place on Sunday, November 1.
“We are going to move to one of the most important races on the schedule, setting up the Cup Series finale,” Campbell said. “Recent history has shown us that drivers will do whatever it takes to secure a spot in the Championship Race, and now the urgency and intensity will go to another level, as it’s the last shot for teams to have a chance at the championship.”
The fall race will now be a cutoff for drivers trying to make the final four before the championship, which driver Joey Logano thinks could make for an even more intense race.
"A Martinsville cut-off race, I don't know if it changes much from the way that race goes already, because there's already so much on the line when you get to that round, but anything can happen at Martinsville," Logano said during NASCAR's telecast.
Logano won the Martinsville fall race last season, the first race of the third round of the playoffs, giving him a spot in the championship, which he eventually won.
This story will be updated throughout the night.