NASCAR officials released start times on Tuesday for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.The most notable shift involves the playoffs opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which will be a nighttime, primetime event next year. The 2019 slate for NASCAR’s top division features few other changes, save for a handful of 30- or 60-minute variations from the previous year’s schedule.“Moving the start time for the September race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is fitting because it will deliver a better experience for our fans attending the race, and kick off the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in primetime,” said Steve Herbst, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Broadcasting and Production. “Each race weekend, including Las Vegas, is unique, and we work collaboratively with broadcast partners, teams and tracks to ensure the ideal timing is selected for our events.”M
The 1.5-mile Las Vegas track served as a September opener to the 10-race postseason for the first time in 2018. The daytime race began at 3 p.m. ET (noon local time) and brought with it hot late-summer temperatures. The race starting at 4 p.m. local time puts Vegas in a similar category as the prestigious Coca-Cola 600 in events that start under the sun and end under the lights.
Other notes from the 2019 start times:
• Green flag times for next year’s Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway are unchanged. Daytona 500 qualifying will be scheduled on the same day (Feb. 10) as The Clash invitational for the second straight year. The season-opening stretch will culminate with the Feb. 17 Daytona 500, starting at 2:30 p.m. ET.
• The March 31 event at Texas Motor Speedway will start one hour later in 2019, moving from a 2 p.m. ET start to 3 p.m. ET. The race also moves to FOX.
• The start time for New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s July 22 event will fire off one hour later, moving from 2 p.m. ET to 3 p.m. ET.
• Martinsville Speedway’s Oct. 28 race in the postseason shifts a half-hour later to a 3 p.m. ET start, which should mean a longer stretch of racing under the lights near the finish.
While I applaud some of the changes, I don’t like that so many races are moving later and later. Out of the 36 points paying races, 22 of them start at 3 p.m. ET or after. In fact, no race will start any earlier than 2 p.m. ET. I get in theory why the shift is being made, but I don’t think it fully suits this fan base. There’s not enough west coast viewers to make up the difference and it’s also keeping people away from the grandstands. It’s too hard to travel to races out of state when the start times put fans back home late into the night.
The most fan friendly start times are Noon or 1 p.m. ET for all east coast races and 3 p.m. ET for west coast. That’s what has worked in the past for NASCAR but catering to one coast of fan bases aren’t working in my opinion.
Also, I get why Vegas was moved to night but that race was phenomenal in the heat of the day last year. A night race adds more grip which in turn creates less action. While we do have a new aero package next season, I don’t know how good of a move this was either.