Daytona 500: NASCAR Makes the Right Call

Adam AmickSenior Writer IFebruary 19, 2009

This is not a paid testimonial–I’m actually going to go to bat for NASCAR on calling the 51st Daytona 500 for rain after 380 miles. I was having a discussion with a non-racing co-worker Wednesday and all these thoughts came to mind…And I’m officially over the fact the 500 was cut short.

It’s as simple as dollars and sense.

Mind you, I’ve stated elsewhere on this site that I think NASCAR pooched the deal with TV in having the start time pushed back as late as it is. If the race had taken the green an hour earlier, the winner would still have been getting Gatorade washed from his car in Victory Lane, but after 500 (and possibly more) miles.

Plenty of people have crucified NASCAR for the decision made to declare Matt Kenseth the winner, and not exercising another option to resume and complete the race either later that night, or more than likely on Monday (either at 1 a.m.-ish or 9 a.m.).

But the decision makes sense in more ways than not.

All you have to do is answer this simple question: What would the cost have been to try to finish the race?

In today’s economy it would have been far too much, for far too many, for far too little.

Yes the race teams needed to get packed up for the return to North Carolina so they could quick-turn and head west to Fontana. But how much would it have cost logistically to cover having all the associated people overnight at Daytona just to run 48 laps?

That’s just the upside.

Consider that the “Big One”, triggered by Brian Vickers and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tore up a number of race cars, but most were able to continue.

How many would have been damaged in the next wreck? You know as well as I do that it was coming. Repairing race cars isn’t cheap, people–ask Tony Stewart, he’s getting first-hand knowledge.

How much would it have cost the fans, most of whom traveled a considerable distance to Daytona for the race, for accommodations and meals over Sunday night? Yes people saved up for months to make the trip, but how much wiggle room was in the budget for an additional day?

There’s also all the workers and volunteers who help the track run on a race weekend. Most of those people have regular jobs they had to return to on Monday, or if they were fortunate, their company or school was closed for President’s Day. But I’ve been to Texas Motor Speedway on a Monday after a rain delay, and the difference in people is astounding. You can’t help but wonder how they do it with the reduced staff.

Then you have the cost of all the personnel with NASCAR, FOX, and other media outlets. I know you’re not about to shed a tear for these folks, but you don’t write the checks for them either.

Consider this: Two race teams in desperate need of financial help and good runs got them based on the race being stopped when it was: Richard Petty Motorsports and Michael Waltrip Racing. So if you’ve been complaining about “Field fillers” and start and park teams, keep these organizations in mind. There’s also Tommy Baldwin Racing, who thanks in part to the big wreck made a nice chunk of change Sunday and went home with an intact race car.

Who really “suffered” because of the ill-timed nature call? Local businesses and hotels. If the race had been postponed to Monday they would have received an additional night of revenue, so you have to think they were rooting for the race resuming.

But I honestly feel no sympathy in this matter and here’s why:

You can’t lose something you never had.

Write that down, you can quote me.

In today’s racing world, when every penny counts, and so many have suffered from layoffs and cutbacks, sometimes you have to make the call to fold while you’re ahead, rather than risking the loss of playing a weak hand.

Yes, NASCAR supporters, some drivers, and certain teams lost on the opportunity that finishing the Daytona 500 would have brought them, but in the end it was the right call on Mike Helton and his people’s part.

I now step down from the pro-NASCAR box and put my disgruntled fan hat back on.