The Art Of A NASCAR Rain Delay

Eric HobbsCorrespondent IMay 26, 2009

CONCORD, NC - MAY 25:  NASCAR officials stand on pit road during a rain delay for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 on May 25, 2009 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Any NASCAR official will tell you that they try to have everything planned and organized, down to the smallest details. Despite every effort it may make, NASCAR can never prepare for one thing: rain.


After this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, many fans are surely confused and maybe upset as to how NASCAR determines whether or not to call a race early, and what all goes into the decision making process.


Given the many things to be considered throughout, it truly is an art.


Officials must look at radar, consider the time of day, add in a highway patrol-set curfew at some tracks, and then estimate how long it would take to dry the track. Oh yeah, and some tracks don’t have lights, so darkness could create a natural curfew.


That’s before NASCAR even considers the fact that teams have to prepare for the next week’s race.


All of those factors mixed together create a nearly impossible situation for NASCAR.


The powers that be have often been criticized for pulling the plug on a race too early, or not moving up a start to try to get the race in.


This was never more the case than during this year’s Daytona 500, which Matt Kenseth won when they called the race after 152 of the scheduled 200 laps.


Maybe people were upset because they simply felt that such an important race should be run to completion, or perhaps others just don’t like Kenseth. Either way, Mother Nature was the ultimate winner of the Great American Race.


In the case of Sunday (and Monday’s) race in Charlotte, NASCAR deserves a lot of credit. There wasn’t a chance to get the full race in on Sunday evening, so they decided to race on Monday morning. That turned out to be the correct call, as it rained much of Sunday evening.


On Monday, the skies were not much better, but they allowed for 227 of the scheduled 400 laps to be completed.


Even then, the race was red-flagged three separate times for rain. Six hours after the drop of the green flag, David Reutimann was declared the winner.


In one of the “crown jewel” events of the season, race officials made every possible effort to get a full race in, perhaps learning from the criticism of the way the Daytona 500 was dealt with.


As boring as it may have gotten for fans to watch on television and as bored as drivers likely were at the track, the radar kept providing us with glimmers of hope and clear skies.


In the end, despite their best efforts, all the work NASCAR did was left soaking wet.