By admin | May 30, 2009
By Richard Allen
Last week in the Coca-Cola 600 at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway a caution flew on lap 220 for, of all things, rain. The race had passed its halfway point at the time so if stopped, the results could be declared official.
David Reutimann and his Michael Waltrip Racing team chose not to pit as the skies darkened over the Charlotte area. At the time, Reutimann was running in the 14th position. The first 13 cars hit pit road and thus handed the #00 the lead.
Those 13 teams who pitted then had brand new tires on their cars for the next few laps of riding under caution and then sitting on pit road for another couple of hours.
Finally, the race was called and Reutimann was declared the winner. Thirteen teams could have won the race, but instead the 14th running car on the track at the time of the yellow flag went to a hastily moved victory lane. This was no ‘Lucky Dog’, just a smart one.
It’s not like there was no example of this type thing to go by. Last year, Kurt Busch won in New Hampshire under very similar circumstances. Larry McReynolds has often told the story of how he lost a race to his Fox broadcasting partner Darrell Waltrip in the same way.
So, will crew chiefs pit their cars if it’s raining this week?
One has to wonder why so many drivers and crews simply gave the Coca-Cola 600 away. Had the caution come out for some other reason and everyone had been fairly certain of going back to green it would have still been a risky gamble with the black clouds so close by, especially in a race that had already been interrupted and was being run a day late because of rain.
Granted, it was not raining that hard, but it was raining nonetheless. By the way, unlike in Daytona NASCAR cannot be criticized for not waiting to see if it would stop raining.
This week, it would seem logical to think that if rain is on the horizon at some point after the halfway mark drivers will be told to stay out if a caution flag waves. But considering that NASCAR is so much of a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ business, if the lead car rolls down pit road with the raindrops falling, he will probably have scores of competitors right behind him.
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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