By admin | February 25, 2008
Rain, there is no solution
By Richard Allen
Rain! Rain! Rain!
We complain when we don’t get enough of it. We complain when we get too much of it and we complain when it comes at the wrong time. Unfortunately, we cannot control the rain, and NASCAR can’t either. There is no solution.
However, some ways to respond to rain are better than others.
NASCAR is in a very difficult position when it rains during one of their events. The sanctioning body has to weigh the safety of its drivers against the needs of fans, many of whom have traveled long distances and spent significant amounts of money to be at the track.
NASCAR does not want to put its drivers at risk.
NASCAR does not want fans to go away from the track disappointed.
NASCAR was trying to act in the best interests of everyone on Sunday in California, but instead, wound up serving the best interests of no one.
The track, located in a normally dry area east of Los Angeles, had not stood up well to an inordinate amount of rain all weekend. Even after the rain had stopped on Friday qualifying for the Auto Club 500 had to be cancelled due to ‘weeping’ on the track. Weeping is a term used to describe the seepage of water up through the asphalt.
Then, more rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s Nationwide Series event. NASCAR had planned to start that race one hour after the finish of the Sprint Cup race.
Knowing teams faced a long cross country trip back to the Charlotte area and knowing their schedule was getting more and more crunched officials hurried track drying after still more showers passed through the area Sunday morning. The race got underway about two hours later than its scheduled start time.
The question is, did NASCAR get in too big of a hurry? Coming off a successful opening weekend which saw an exciting Daytona 500 and improved television ratings the last thing NASCAR wanted was a drawn out rain delay in only the second week of 2008, particularly at a track where attendance is often less than hoped for.
It did not take long for drivers to criticize NASCAR’s call. “The track isn’t ready today,” said Dale Earnhardt, Jr. “We rushed into this. It was a bad move.”
“There are 42 other drivers that would agree that we should not be racing on that track right now,” Denny Hamlin added.
Both Earnhardt and Hamlin were involved in crashes less than 20 laps into the race.
Perhaps even worse than starting the race when they did was NASCAR’s refusal to give up on the day even after it seemed apparent there was little chance of anymore racing.
No doubt NASCAR wanted to please the fans in attendance. No doubt NASCAR wanted to please its television audience and the Fox Network. Instead, they kept miserable, wet fans sitting for hours clinging to hope that the race would resume. They kept diehard fans, especially those in the east, up all hours of the night until they finally acknowledged the obvious.
If the track had weepers on Friday during the daytime it almost certainly would continue to have weepers after more rain and the onset of darkness.
While it was admirable of NASCAR to want to please everybody they ultimately just caused a lot of people to sit for hours in a cold rain and others to trudge through a groggy day at work on Monday.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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