The spring NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway on April 9 will have a significant change. The Cup Series drivers will only complete 400 laps instead of the traditional 500 while fighting for a spot in the playoffs.
The track officials announced the news on January 27 with a press release. The race will now have the name of the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400. The reason for the change is that this race will take place at night, so the shorter length will accommodate the later start time of 7:30 p.m. ET. The stage breaks will take place on Laps 80 and 180 before the final run to the checkered flag at Lap 400.
The fall trip to Martinsville Speedway, however, will remain the same. The drivers will still complete 500 laps during the Xfinity 500 on October 30 as they fight for the final spots in the championship race.
Only 1 Cup Series Race at Martinsville Has Featured 400 Laps
The April 9 race at Martinsville Speedway will mark a significant moment in Cup Series history. The reason is that the track has hosted a race every season of NASCAR’s existence, but only one has featured 400 laps.
The last time the Cup Series drivers completed only 400 laps at the iconic short track was in 1956. 40 cars headed to the grid for the Old Dominion 400, a race that featured seven leaders. Jack Smith led the final 175 laps — and 185 total — before capturing the checkered flag in a Dodge.
The 1956 season actually featured two trips to Martinsville Speedway as part of a tradition that began during the 1950 season. The first race, which Buck Baker won, had 500 laps while the second had only 400. The 2022 season will now follow this format. Though the longer race will cap off the third round of the playoffs.
Stunning Crashes Headlined the 2022 Martinsville Races
There were two trips to Martinsville Speedway during the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, both of which turned heads for wildly different reasons. Though on-track incidents derailed multiple contenders.
The first race, which Martin Truex Jr. won after leading a total of 20 laps, was fairly quiet early on. There were multiple caution flags, mostly due to single-car spins. However, the situation changed drastically with 115 laps remaining in the race. A massive wreck unfolded that collected 12 cars and led to Ryan Preece’s No. 37 catching on fire.
The crash unfolded after contact between Kyle Busch and Chris Buescher. The two drivers both spun to the left coming out of Turn 2 and blocked the track. Erik Jones slammed into the side of Buescher’s stock car while Brad Keselowski collided with Busch’s. The track became a parking lot, which brought the race to a halt.
The Xfinity 500, which sent three drivers to the championship four so they could compete with Kyle Larson, had multiple stunning moments during the final stage. Alex Bowman tapped the rear of Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 while fighting for position, sending it spinning into the wall. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver responded by interrupting Bowman’s victory celebration and by calling his fellow Cup Series driver a hack.
The collision between Hamlin and Bowman was not the only one that sparked comments from angry drivers. Keselowski also tried to spin Busch coming out of Turn 4 in order to make a pass at the finish line. The maneuver, which would not have sent Keselowski to the championship 4, did not work. Busch corrected the No. 18 and still finished second overall.