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TRE ‘ColuJM’ – No fun when it rains on the NASCAR parade

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Denny Hamlin walks down pit road at Daytona International Speedway on February 13th, 2020. Photo by Erick Messer / TRE.

Rain is great for saving the planet and all, but not when there is┬áracing to be done on NASCAR’s oval tracks.

We are two official race weekends into the 2020 NASCAR season, and weather has plagued both of them in one way or another.

It was tough enough to be in attendance and have to deal with the many rain delays in Daytona Beach, but it was even more agonizing on Saturday afternoon for me.

Saturday was my first day off from anything in months. I was more than ready to kick back on the couch and celebrate with a large pizza and some refreshing Coca-Cola.

Qualifying for both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Cup Series got rained out, and the radar wasn’t promising for the NXS Boyd Gaming 300 later that evening.

Somehow, they managed to get a quarter of the race in, but the conclusion was forced to Sunday after the Cup Series event. Bummer. With work all day on Sunday, it’d be hard for me to fully capture all the double-header action at the track.

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Most of the Xfinity Series cars sit covered in the rain at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 22nd, 2020. Photo by Dominic Aragon / TRE.

Similar to last weekend in Daytona, it didn’t make a whole bunch of sense as to why the postponement times on the following day at Las Vegas were so seemingly awful to the people in attendance for the event.

The conclusion of the Boyd Gaming 300 took place following the NASCAR Cup Series main event, the Pennzoil 400, yesterday evening.

Looking at the grandstands for the main event, they were absolutely packed out, maybe even one of the best crowds for Las Vegas Motor Speedway in years.

When the Xfinity Series went back to it about an hour after the Cup race ended, many of the fans seemingly chose not to stay, or couldn’t justify holding off the travel home for 150 laps of the secondary NASCAR series. The stands were so empty in comparison, at least what could be seen on TV.

Had the Xfinity race taken place before the Pennzoil 400, I truly believe that many of those fans would have made the extra effort to get up a little earlier, and enjoy the double header race day.

Instead, the Xfinity Series race fans suffered from the make-up time being after when the weekend was supposed to end. Many had scheduled flights to catch, or had work to do the following day.

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The Air Titans circulate the tri-oval at Talladega Superspeedway on October 13th, 2019. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE.

It seemed to me like the make-up race time was tailored specifically for the television networks to garner the most in-home viewership, but that was at the expense of the race fans who spent all that money to drag themselves and anyone else they could bring to the physical track.

The fall Talladega race last year also had weather issues, and the family I camped with that weekend had no chance of staying for the conclusion of the race with the scheduled 2:00 pm ET restart time on Monday afternoon. It was definitely pretty sad watching them pull away while I headed back to the speedway.

If the race had started earlier in the day, maybe that family and others could have justified sticking around for the conclusion, but it just wasn’t meant to be. All those fans missed out on a fantastic Talladega race and finish between Ryan Blaney and Ryan Newman.

The same thing happened at Daytona last week. I had so many friends and colleagues who had no chance of staying with the even later 4:00 pm ET restart on Monday.

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The rain forced the 62nd running of the Daytona 500 to Monday, February 17th, 2020. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE.

These races keep starting later and later in the day as it is, with this year’s 500 pushed back even further due to the presence of President Donald J. Trump, it seemed it was doomed from the start with how finicky Floridian weather can be.

The grandstand seats, which can be seen on the Daytona 500 fan cam, I estimate were at about 65% to 70% capacity, a huge difference from the day before where it seemed to be more than 95%, including a packed infield fan zone.

To me, it’s just a shame that the fans at the track seem to be a second thought to the TV numbers game. I’m not dumb though, I get that TV pays the big bills, and they of course get a say in how it plays out in the instance of delay.

Bad weather is a just a giant inconvenience to everyone.

I remember not too long ago that when the races got rained out to the next available day, that the earliest convenience was the way to go, normally getting back to it around 11:00 am to 12:00 pm local time.

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Track workers attempt to dry pit road at Daytona International Speedway on February 13th, 2020. Photo by Erick Messer / TRE.

Personally, I feel like the fans who sit in the stands should have a little more priority when it comes to the decisions made regarding when these cars get back to racing following a delay.

Whatever happens going forward, I think NASCAR and their partners have the ability to compromise in restart times, and even start times in general for the 2021 season and beyond.

Nobody wants to make fans wait around in the rain for nothing, only to postpone it anyway, but that has happened two weekends in a row now. There seems to be an abundance of NASCAR meteorologists around social media who were able to predict the chance of racing both weekends to be slim, but still, hope was held out until it couldn’t be held any more.

Just think about the logistical nightmare that could happen when the series goes to Pocono for the first modern-day Cup Series double header later this year. There is absolutely no room for inclement weather.

Actually, I’m going to try and not think about that. It was sad enough that I had to miss the spring Dover race last year, I’d hate to think another local race for me could be another bad time.

I’m crossing my fingers that Mother Nature has exercised all of her rainy race weekends early in the 2020 calendar, and from Auto Club Speedway on, there’s nothing but clear skies and fast cars on track.

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DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

 

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Justin Melillo View All

Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com

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