The NASCAR Cup Series‘ two dates at Martinsville Speedway have long been a pair of 500-lap affairs. However, the spring race’s distance has been axed by a fifth to 400 laps. Consequently, the race name has been modified to the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 from the original “500”. The fall Xfinity 500 will keep its length.
Martinsville has had 500-lap Cup races for over seven decades, with the only 400 lapper there being the 1956 Old Dominion 400 won by Jack Smith; the race was a combination event between the then-Grand National Series and the now defunct Convertible Division. Nine races since have been less than 500 laps, though all have been circumstantial such as being shortened by weather or the energy crisis of the early 1970s. The 1961 Virginia 500 had an unusual case in which it was called short after 149 laps (which would not have occurred under today’s rules as races are only official upon crossing the halfway point, which would have been 250 laps under the 500-lap length) before a make-up race that ran the full distance took place two weeks later.
The change was spurred as the spring race has been held at night since 2020. Weather and the nature of short track racing, the latter of which frequently leads to crashes and cautions, also mean the possibility of races continuing well into the night were a concern. Martinsville races typically run for over three hours, with the 2021 Blue-Emu 500—which was delayed by rain—nearly reaching four hours at three hours, fifty-four minutes, and twenty-five seconds, the longest at the half-mile track since the 2007 fall race. Decreasing attention spans have also prompted races to decrease in distance over the years.
Stage breaks will take place on laps 80 and 180, meaning the third and final segment will be 220 laps long. Martin Truex Jr. is the defending race winner.