KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas Speedway is preparing for an extra dose of glory this weekend, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runs its first-ever night race at the track. The race will be live on FOX 4 this Saturday night.
When the track was built in 2001, there were no lights and no night racing. This week, four years of work comes together as the lights will be up and shining for the Sprint Cup 5-Hour Energy 400.
“Night racing is certainly a big occasion,” said Chris Schwartz, Vice President of Marketing for Kansas Speedway.
Schwartz grew up behind the wheel of a racecar himself. Saturday night will bring the Sprint Cup Series and a primetime television audience to Kansas Speedway.
“Saturday night racing at your local short track is something that many race fans have grown up with. You get that slice of history and heritage too. It feels really good to have a night race,” said Schwartz.
The horsepower won’t happen without electric power. Nearly 2,000 light bulbs will illuminate the track for the stock cars, which aren’t equipped with head lights. Some of the bulbs pack as much as 2,000 watts of light apiece.
“That’s 35 blocks of a residential neighborhood of street lights lighting up this mile-and-a-half racing surface,” said Schwartz.
And when those beacons blast on Saturday night, they’ll shine on David French’s work. The Paola resident is the Rembrandt of infield paint, having donated his color to as many as six NASCAR tracks. French said it’s his pleasure to add his touch to Saturday’s night race, which is a work in progress.
“Hopefully the best thing they’ve ever seen, I don’t know! We try to get it bright and pretty. Right now, it’s kind of dull, this is only the first coat,” said French.
For other finishing touches, Kathy Pine and her family manage Pine Landscape Center in Lawrence, which is supplying 700 yellow and gold flowers from their greenhouses.
“It doesn’t grow aesthetically as far as the plant material here, but it’s fun to watch all the trucks and RVs come in. This place comes alive,” said Pine.
Schwartz said the Board of Public Utilities told him the speedway’s new lights use as much power as a new neighborhood might. The Sprint Cup Series gets its first look at them on Saturday night when 43 cars roll to the green flag at 6:30 local time.