NASCAR Tradition Takes a Hit with Easter Night Race at Richmond

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NASCAR Tradition Fades Away with Easter Night RaceJonathan Bachman - Getty Images
  • For most of the past 76 years (the history of NASCAR), Easter weekend has been spent away from the track.

  • The weekend's race at Richmond marks the third consecutive year of racing on Easter.

  • The 1989 spring Richmond race was snowed out and postponed exactly a month, to Easter Sunday. That was the last Easter race date for NASCAR since the current three-year run.

The late Anne B. France never worried about spring football.

Nor did France sweat the Olympics affecting her family’s new stock car racing enterprise in the late 1940s. One of her concerns, though, was that this young company called NASCAR shouldn’t be open for business on Easter Sunday.


Too bad those following her haven’t always been as perceptive. If so, this weekend’s 400-lap, 300-mile Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) Raceway wouldn’t be scheduled for 7 p.m. on Easter Sunday.

Blame that on FOX/ESPN for pushing racing aside in favor of the United Football League. That new league opens with two Saturday afternoon games on FOX and two Sunday afternoon games on ESPN/FOX. That Sunday telecast and the two-weekend break while NBC televises the July 26-Aug. 11 Olympics are why Richmond has such an unorthodox date.

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The NASCAR Cup Series has raced the past two years at Bristol on Easter Sunday.Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Blame might be a strong word when it comes to TV. After all, the networks pay a bundle in rights fees so maybe it's okay if they have more than a little say-so in scheduling matters.

Generally, the schedule-makers in Daytona Beach have 52 weekends for 36 points races and two exhibitions. Because of the NBC/Olympic agreement, they have only 50 this year. Without that break, teams might have had Easter weekend off as they have for most of the last 76 years. As it is, they open with 22 consecutive events—including the May 19 All-Star race—have two weekends off, then go 14 more weekends, ending Nov. 10 with the Championship Weekend near Phoenix.

More often than not, stock car racing has tried to avoid Easter races. Credit that to Mrs. France, wife of NASCAR founder the late Bill France Sr., and mother of the late Bill France Jr. and his brother, current company executive Jim France. It was her belief that Easter should be reserved for families to attend religious services, then gathering for lunch.

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Anne B. France, wife of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., wasn’t afraid to put her foot down when it came to the topic of racing on Easter Sunday. RacingOne - Getty Images