How long should a race last? Of the first seven 500-mile Sprint Cup races this year, the average time to complete each race has been 3 hours, 42 minutes, and 6 seconds. In contrast, the last four Indianapolis 500's (excluding the rain shortened 2007 race) have been completed in 3 hours, 16 minutes, and 17 seconds. The lesson here is that a 500-mile race needs to be kept special and rare (particularly in stock car racing). I know I am not taking green-white-checker finishes into account, but that is not the point.
These days the average NASCAR race takes about three to four hours to complete. Outside of the Indy 500, most IndyCar oval races are over in two hours. The average Formula One race runs ninety minutes with a two hour time limit. The 1,000 kilometers (that is about 620 miles) of Monza take about five hours to complete. The Bathurst 1000 takes six to seven hours to complete. The first Indianapolis 500 took 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 8 seconds to complete. As cars have gotten faster, people have forgotten that a 500-mile race is supposed to be a special endurance race at special tracks, but now they are watered down and have lost their luster.
This year the Super Bowl started at 6:32, ended at 9:46 (3 hours, 14 minutes total), and drew the largest television audience in U.S. history (beating the series finale of M*A*S*H which aired before cable and satellite TV were ubiquitous). The average Major League Baseball game lasts about 2 hours, 45 minutes (and for some reason the All Star Game cannot start before 8:30). It has been said that Americans have poor attention spans, but if sporting events are any indication, Europeans are less patient. Rugby games (both League and Union) almost always take 90 minutes to play (thanks to a continuous clock). Soccer games run closer to 100 minutes.
I think it is safe to say that NASCAR can shorten 30 minutes from its average race length without any adverse effects. I am not advocating that all 500-mile races be shortened, just make them rare. This comes in handy during The Chase when drivers stay extra conservative in long races for fear of being involved in an unnecessary crash.
Ideally, all of the Atlanta, Fontana, and Texas races would be shortened to 500 miles. The fall races at Pocono, Charlotte, and Talladega would also be shortened to 500 miles. The fall race at Martinsville and spring race at Bristol could be would be 400 laps. The spring race at Talladega could increase to 600 miles, or preferably, 1,000 kilometers.
I don't want to make the steak smaller; I just want to trim off some of the fat.
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