Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Are Sunday Night Races Worth the Threat of Rain?

Are Sunday night races worth the threat of rain?

Taylor Kornhoff: Entirely. It’s certainly more likely at night, but rain can come at any time. The weather becomes more unpredictable each year. It’s a great sensory experience live or on TV and it makes it easier for fans to make it to the track or watch the race. There are so many jobs that prioritize working on weekends, because that’s when other people are not working. The same can be said about night shift workers. Racing at night makes it so hardworking people with all of these jobs can still catch the races. Screw David Land, screw noon. Most racing throughout the year apart from the summer months should be run at night, starting earliest at 5 p.m. just like your local short track. It also helps to cater to the younger generation; we’ve grown increasingly nocturnal and are glued to screens, and that’s an observation, not a criticism.

Vito Pugliese: I’m not opposed to Sunday night races during the summer; it’s terrible on a Saturday night for both local tracks and those of us in the Midwest who only get a few nice months a year to enjoy warm nights outside. The only issue with Sunday was NASCAR knew with absolute certainty that a storm was moving going to be in the area within a few hours and likely was going to have lightning, which is a perpetual 20-minute delay. Easily call an audible and move it up 30 minutes, or pick a lap to end it after stage one once it got a better track on the trajectory of the storm.

Mark Kristl: In the summertime, yes. Friday and Saturday nights are for short track racing and other grassroots series. But with schools out for the summer, it’s not like kids need to be working on their homework or preparing for school the next day. Now they can watch NASCAR. NASCAR doesn’t need an overabundance of Sunday night races, but races at some tracks with lights, such as Atlanta Motor Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway, can be opportunities for NASCAR to shine. After all, what other sporting events are on Sunday nights in the summer? Other than Sunday night baseball, there isn’t anything major, so NASCAR has an ideal timeslot for fans to tune in.

Josh Calloni: They are worth it, especially in the summer. NASCAR, like anyone else, can’t predict the rain, especially months out when the schedules are made. A Sunday night race in the summer has very few competitors on television, as the NHL, NBA and NFL are all off for the summer and the MLB only holds one Sunday night game most weeks, giving the chance for extremely good ratings. Add in the fact that it’s cooler and more welcoming for fans at the track, and holding Sunday night races is extremely worth the risk of rain.

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Does Corey LaJoie deserve an extension with Spire Motorsports?

Kristl: Corey LaJoie has how many wins in NASCAR series? Zero! How many playoff appearances? Zero. Yes, he has brought sponsorship to the team, which is the almighty driving force in the sport, but LaJoie doesn’t deserve it. Spire yet again shows its lack of commitment to contending as Ty Dillon has been an absolute bust in his NASCAR Cup Series career and LaJoie could re-sign with the team despite no outstanding results on his resume.

Luken Glover: LaJoie absolutely deserves an extension. In fact, this is great for Spire, because LaJoie could have looked for a better ride if one came open. Yes, I realize what happened in his one-off with Hendrick Motorsports, but HMS didn’t have great speed that weekend, and the preparation was last minute given the circumstances. With Gainbridge coming on as a sponsor, Spire should continue to improve. LaJoie is currently on track to better his career-high average finish by nearly five positions. He is the guy for Spire to build around, and performance from both should be on the rise in the near future. 

Kornhoff: LaJoie deserves an extension. He has outdriven his equipment all year at almost every track, and his performance in the No. 9 car really doesn’t factor in. Especially considering World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is a Hendrick weakness and the No. 9 has just been off for a lot of this year, even when you ignore Chase Elliott‘s suspension and injuries.

Pugliese: Absolutely. Guy does more with less than anybody else in the series. There are some who might clown him because his one substitute race in Elliott’s car was doomed from the start, but how many of those people have driven a car in competition, let alone with anything over 190 hp? He’s a great voice and personality and has helped to elevate Spire to respectability in the last two seasons.

Only one driver is within 40 points below the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff cut line. Do you foresee anyone below it winning their way into the playoffs?

Phil Allaway: Daytona International Speedway can throw up surprises at any time. Remember that Jeremy Clements won last year’s Wawa 250. Outside of a Daytona surprise, the most likely person to snatch a berth away should be Brandon Jones. He has by far the best team of anyone outside of the top 12. He just doesn’t have anything to show for it this year. I’m not necessarily surprised that he hasn’t won yet, but the fact that he has a grand total of three top-10 finishes to this point when his teammates have 10 or more is crazy. He’s had bad luck, but it seems like he’s regressed from his time with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Glover: The road courses and race at Daytona will certainly provide some opportunities for drivers who need a win to get in. Parker Kligerman is only six points out of the playoffs, so he could still point his way in. He also has a shot to win at the road courses but will face a steep challenge. Jones has the best equipment to go out and win, but there isn’t much optimism that will happen. As far as an upset, I would keep my eye on Parker Retzlaff, Brett Moffitt or Clements. It is hard to overlook Daytona, so it could easily happen, but I don’t see the drivers on the outside looking in getting a win.

Andrew Stoddard: Jones will finally wake up and grab a race win before the regular season is up. He has been easily the biggest disappointment in the Xfinity Series up to this point, securing only three top-10 finishes with a No. 9 JR Motorsports team that won eight races and nearly won the championship last season with Noah Gragson. If Jones fails to make the playoffs in arguably the best equipment in the Xfinity Series, that will be a poor reflection on him as a driver. The clock is ticking.

Steve Leffew: We still have three road courses, Daytona and Darlington Raceway on the schedule. There are a lot of drivers who could still pull out a surprise win. Look at how Ryan Sieg ran at Atlanta. He could do the same at Daytona. Kligerman could be a threat at the road courses. Moffitt has been running close enough to the front to perhaps catch lightning in a bottle. Maybe someday Jones will realize he’s driving for JRM.

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Ron Hornaday Jr. praised Landen Lewis, saying, “He’s putting Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick to shame cause he’s a lot younger starting out. They were a little older.” Do you agree with Hornaday’s assessment?

Calloni: It’s a bit of an ambitious statement. Landen Lewis has shown good prowess in his time in the ARCA Menards Series, and there’s no doubting his talent. However, saying he’s putting two of the best the sport has had to offer in the last two decades to shame is a really outlandish statement, especially for a driver who has made one start above the ARCA level. Ron Hornaday Jr. was a little bit out of line there, but I give him credit for giving his understudy (of sorts) the attention, because Lewis has the talent to warrant it. That talent just can’t be compared to Kevin Harvick or Jimmie Johnson at this point.

Leffew: Hornaday was playing cheerleader a little bit there for Lewis with that comment. It’s true Harvick didn’t make his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start until 19 and Johnson didn’t make his first Xfinity start until 22, but “putting to shame”? Kudos to Hornaday for getting some attention to his young understudy. 

Allaway: We don’t have much of a wrap sheet at the higher levels for Lewis at this point, but he’s done very well. He won in ARCA in just his second career start at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. He’s currently leading the points in the ARCA Menards Series West. Hornaday may have been getting ahead of himself a little bit and really wasn’t being fair to Johnson since he was 22 or so before doing any stock car racing at all. Of course, in Johnson’s defense, he was busy kicking butt in SODA and CORR. Harvick toiled with a family operation for years in late models and part time in the Truck Series before he got his big break. Lewis got the good equipment much earlier and is taking advantage of it.

Stoddard: There is not enough evidence to support or refute Hornaday’s claim. A few ARCA wins is a good start, but I need to see more of Lewis in a national touring series. He just made his Truck debut last week at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, finishing a so-so 24th. Ask this question again in a year or two.

About the author

Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

Steve Leffew joined Frontstretch in 2023, and covers the Xfinity Series. He resides in Wisconsin and has been a NASCAR fan as long as he can remember. He has served honorably in the United States Air Force and works during the week as a Real Estate Lender.

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

Josh joined Frontstretch in 2023 and currently covers the ARCA Menards Series. Born and raised in Missouri, Josh has been watching motorsports since 2005. He currently is studying for a Mass Communication degree at Lindenwood University

Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He has a new day job as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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Kevin in SoCal

Living in the west coast time zone, I don’t mind night races, but I agree that races should start earlier when rain is in the area. Its just seems like common sense, something we know NASCAR and TV lack. I do miss Saturday night races, though.

gbvette

Someone please explain the love affair the NASCAR writers all seem to have with Corey LaJoie. As a northerner I’m aware that he had some early success in NASCAR East and ARCA, but what’s he done since 2014 in Xfinity, Cup & trucks? No wins, no poles and only a handful of top 10’s.

I don’t mind Cup races on Sunday nights….other then Mothers Day, that was just dumb! Every other sport plays most of their games in prime time, seven nights a week, so why should Sundays (or Wednesdays for that matter) be off limits to NASCAR?

Kicks

Due to work schedules, I don’t watch nighttime sports events that go later than about 8:00pm other than Friday night or Saturday night. Sunday is doable if Monday is a holiday. A 5:00am alarm clock is something I (and oters) have to deal with.

Bill B

Exactly.
And I will never buy into the “Saturday night races hurt the local tracks”.
So what? That’s kind of like letting the tale wag the dog. If they feel it will hurt their sales, they should adjust their schedule accordingly. They can run on Sunday night.

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