Since 1976, Musco Lighting has specialized in the design and manufacture of sports and transportation/infrastructure lighting solutions around the world. Their innovation and quality lighting has earned them awards at the highest levels of their industry with galvanized steel playing an integral role in their designs. The lighting solution they designed and patented for Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) in 1992 is one outstanding example still in use today.
Site analysis and extensive pole zinc readings averaging 5 mils coupled with virtually no degradation in corrosion control after 27 years is further evidence to validate the Life Cycle Cost expected, despite the decades of exposure to highly-acidic exhaust fumes.
It all started with a simple suggestion from Humpy Wheeler, former President of CMS, to address the decline in NASCAR fan enthusiasm and sponsorship. “How about we run it at night?” This novel yet seemingly simple idea spurred a series of events leading to groundbreaking innovation in lighting systems. After the race was announced, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and all the NASCAR drivers complained about the prospect of racing at night on a 1.5-mile superspeedway. They were concerned about facing darks spots on the track at 190 MPH, compromising their safety. CMS officials were also worried about the prospect of requiring fans to watch the race through an obstacle of light poles creating a picket fence effect.
With less than a year until the event, Musco was presented with this lighting challenge. A testament to supplier commitment, the Chairman of Musco Lighting, Myron Gordin, enrolled in the Richard Petty NASCAR driving school to advance his understanding of acuity demands and integration of lighting sight lines at high speeds. Musco engineers then built a 30’ x 60’, 50:1 scale model of the track to gain overall perspective and to simulate camera, driver and spectator viewing angles. By the end of January, enough prototypes had been built to light two sections of the Charlotte track for tests under actual driving conditions. The tests proved beyond a doubt that the transformational lighting solution hit the mark utilizing the innovative Mirtran system to provide pinpoint light control, exceptional uniformity, reduced glare and the ability to film night races. Darrell Waltrip came into the pits from a practice run and said, “I could see a dime 100 feet down the track.” They quickly determined the Mirtran System, using mirrors to reflect light onto the track, would provide optimal lighting for driver safety as well as viewing from the stands and TV. With the May 16 deadline approaching, the system was put into fast track production.
The design was finalized but they couldn’t install the steel poles and fixtures without a protective coating. Pulling from their decades of experience, hot-dip galvanizing was the go-to solution. They already established good relationships with multiple galvanizing companies and through teamwork, two galvanizers processed all 300 tons of steel to meet the accelerated install timeline. Hot-dip galvanizing also kept the project on budget and would eliminate the need for routine maintenance, saving money in the long run as well. Additionally, the primary components - zinc and steel - are natural, abundant, and 100% recyclable, rightfully winning acclaim for hot-dip galvanized steel as an infinitely renewable building material.
Musco Lighting selects hot-dip galvanizing system wide to meet demanding environmental conditions worldwide. It also is a driving force behind the company’s industry best 30-year warranty. Site analysis and extensive pole zinc readings averaging 5 mils at CMS coupled with virtually no degradation in corrosion control after 27 years is further evidence to validate the Life Cycle Cost expected, despite the decades of exposure to highly-acidic exhaust fumes. It is projected that the hot-dip galvanized poles have over 60 years of remaining life. Current day photos and mil readings on the poles at CMS support the attributes of the hot-dip galvanizing selection by Musco designers and accentuate the superior corrosion control characteristic over time. Track personnel and the racing industry around the globe embrace the appearance of hot-dip galvanizing on racetracks for enriched aesthetics under the lights.
“Stability and robustness of steel poles is integral to the precise aiming and holding requirements of the light fixtures. Speedway track personnel have stated surprise at the minimal amount of maintenance required to adjust fixtures to the hot-dip galvanized poles.”
The backdrop of hot-dip galvanized coatings around the track is an agreeable and understated contrast to the desired pop of dramatic colors in marketing and advertising on LED Big Screens, billboards and does not detract from focus on the racecars. The showcasing of “One Hot Night”- racing under the lights was a huge success. With 150,000 spectators and millions of TV viewers, the event paved the way for dominant growth. The revolutionary Musco Mirtran Lighting System became the standard at Super Speedways for over a decade and supported ongoing growth of hot-dip galvanized steel poles in this market that continues today. Founders & designers of the lighting system for Charlotte Motor Speedway, Joe Crookham and Myron Gordin from Musco Lighting Inc., received the 1993 Paul Waterbury Award of Excellence, a worldwide award for outdoor lighting. Today, Musco Lighting is a global company with over 850 employees and over 150 million pounds of hot-dip galvanized steel installed across the world.
The light poles at CMS have aged as expected over 27 years as the distinct hot-dip galvanized coating matures into a more homogenous, uniform and subtle finish with time. Speedway track personnel have stated surprise at the minimal amount of maintenance required to adjust fixtures to the hot-dip galvanized poles.
|Turn 3, Pole #8
|Turn 3, Pole #11
|Backstretch, Pole #17
|Backstretch, Pole #31
|Backstretch, Pole #32
Concord, NC United States
Aesthetics, Coating Durability, Corrosion Performance, Ease of Specifying, Initial Cost, Life-Cycle Cost, Prior HDG Experience, Quality of HDG, Sustainability, Turnaround Time
115 steel telescoping light poles and 1,204 light fixtures (1992), Grandstands (1988, 1995, 1997), Diamond Tower (1997), SAFER Barrier (2004), Wheel fence modification (1999), HDTV Jumbotron (2011)
Whitley Steel Company, Inc.
Southern Bleacher Co.
Speedway Motor Sports, Inc.
Speedway Motorsports, Inc.
Jeremy Lomax- Eastern Sign Tech
Structural Technology Consultants
Myron Gordin, Joe Crookham
Speedway Motorsports, Inc.
Valmont Coatings - Empire Galvanizing
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