NASCAR: Race rained out
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. ó Andy Lally will have to curb his enthusiasm for another day.
Lally, a champion road racer with dreams of competing in NASCAR, was scheduled to make his first Sprint Cup start on Sunday. But a band of rain moved over the road course at Watkins Glen International and never lifted, forcing NASCAR to postpone the race until noon Monday.
“It’s pretty anticlimactic. We were all belted in ready to go when they pulled the plug on us,” Lally said after NASCAR called off the race at 4 p.m. “This being my first Sprint Cup start, it just makes it that much more anticipation. I’m going to try to get a good night’s sleep in the motor home tonight and just think positive, keep thinking about all the things I have to do tomorrow.”
A thunderstorm hit the track about 2 p.m. Sunday when drivers were about to start their engines. The course takes at least two hours to dry. Rain was still falling at 4 p.m. making it too late to complete the 90-lap event before sunset. The track stretches nearly 21/2 miles around 11 turns and has several elevation changes.
Last week’s race at Pocono also was moved to Monday because of rain, and with just five races before the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, another delay wasn’t welcome.
“That’s got to be tough,” Canadian road racer Ron Fellows said. “They’ve spent a lot of time at the racetrack watching it rain. You might get a bit stir-crazy.”
Saturday’s Nationwide race at The Glen was also threatened by rain. Though it never materialized, rain tires were stacked in the garage area just in case.
NASCAR’s first major points race in the rain came just over a year ago at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal in a Nationwide Series race, and that made a lasting impression on four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like in a Cup race,” Gordon said. “I thoroughly enjoyed watching it rain up there. That was highly entertaining, but I was very glad I wasn’t inside the car.”
Carl Edwards’ team was one of several that didn’t install a windshield wiper during an extended early caution when NASCAR went to the rain tires. Without a wiper, Edwards stuck a squeegee out the driver-side window to clean his windshield during later caution periods. Fellows won the race.
“I think it would actually be fun to drive the cars in the rain and you can feel the grip level,” Gordon said. “But as you saw, the windshield wipers don’t work, the defog doesn’t work. When a guy’s got to use a squeegee inside the car, there’s something wrong. Those cars should not be out there in the rain.”
“It was pretty fun to watch,” Kevin Harvick said. “I don’t know how much fun it would be to drive. The problem is you can’t see. I practiced the truck in the rain here. The cars aren’t really that bad to drive because you have to slow down so much. The other thing is the rooster tail that shoots out the back of the car. I mean, I’d try it.”
So, too, would Robby Gordon.
“It (delaying a day) makes it really hard on the race teams because Monday is normally the guys’ day off,” he said. “Now, it’s two weeks in a row. It may be a day off today because we didn’t race, but they’re not home with their families. And the other side is for the fans. They stand around for two days, and a lot of them have to go back to work on Monday. It’s kind of a bummer.
“… I wish we’d just suck it up and run on rain tires. As far as I’m concerned, I’d run with them on the ovals, too.”
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said using rain tires wasn’t really an option.
“As high as the stakes are, we feel it’s in the best interests of everybody if we race on dry tracks,” he said.