Setting the Easter Record Straight
By Mike Holloway On Sun, Mar. 31, 2013
Nothing seems more American than enjoying NASCAR racing on a holiday weekend. The two seem almost mutually exclusive. The largest racing organization in North America has built a solid brand by promoting patriotism, family and raw speed.
Since 1960, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway has been synonymous with Memorial Day weekend. Coupled with the fabled Indianapolis 500, stock car racing’s longest event has become a somewhat of a pilgrimage for race fans.
In 1959 Daytona International Speedway hosted the Firecracker 400 on the Fourth of July, and continued to do so every year (regardless of which day of the week the fourth fell on) until 1988 when it was moved to the first Saturday of July. In 2009 that race day again fell on the Fourth, marking the first time since 1992 the event was held on America’s most patriotic day.
Darlington International Raceway began hosting the prestigious Southern 500 in 1950, on Labor Day weekend. Until 1984 the Southern 500 was held on Monday, the actual date of Labor Day. The Labor Day race was moved from Darlington on 2004 and was briefly held at Auto Club Speedway in California before reaching its current location at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Father’s Day and, in more recent years, Mother’s Day have all been holidays celebrated by horsepower, barbeques and relaxation.
But, what about Easter?
Fans have long assumed that NASCAR simply does not race on Easter, and in more recent years that is true. But, that hasn’t always been the case. Since NASCAR started what it calls the “Modern Era” in 1972 the Sprint Cup Series only raced on Easter once in 1989 when Rusty Wallace scored a victory at Richmond International Raceway. In 1985 the Sprint Cup cars ran a race at Bristol on the Saturday before Easter due to a rain out from the originally scheduled March 31 date, Easter weekend being the only other viable date for a make-up.
In the twenty-three years before the Modern Era though, what is now known as Sprint Cup cars ran on Easter Sunday 10 times and the Saturday before Easter 7 times. In 1963 NASCAR staged Cup races not only on Easter Sunday, but the day before and the Monday after as well.
Since its inception in 1982, the NASCAR Nationwide Series has raced on Easter Sunday twice (1983 at North Wilkesboro and 1991 at Hickory Motor Speedway, again due to a rain out), but in the thirty-one years since 1982 NASCAR’s second tier series has raced on Easter Eve 21 times.
The Camping World Truck Series has never raced on Easter Sunday since its beginning in 1995. But, it has three times raced on the Saturday before, in 1995 at Saugus Speedway, 1999 at Evergreen Speedway and 2000 at Portland International Raceway.
As NASCAR tries to grow itself into a more family oriented brand, they seem to have in the last few decades put an emphasis on the more family oriented holidays as well. So, while we most likely won’t see any NASCAR racing on Easter Sunday any time soon, it doesn’t mean we won’t be craving our racing fix none-the-less.