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Keith Huewen:

David rains supreme

Better late than never as wet weather causes more woe for NASCAR

Keith Huewen Posted 26th May 2009 view comments

One day late, and after a protracted decision-making process that only NASCAR could clarify, but did not, David Reutimann won the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600, his first ever Cup race win, at rain-soaked Lowes Motor Speedway on Memorial Monday.

Modest almost to a fault, Reutimann accepted the win with resignation that it came through a strategic 'roll of the dice' by crew chief Rodney Childers rather than out-and-out race pace. And his modesty only compounded my feeling of injustice; that he should have been made to wait so incredibly long for his moment in history!

Reutimann: in the rain before the race finally got underway

Reutimann: in the rain before the race finally got underway

Why did NASCAR take so long to 'call' the race, making Reutimann and team owner Michael Waltrip wait in the rain for an indecent amount of time before making that final decision?

Waiting until almost every other driver had changed into their 'civilian' clothes, and while television companies around the world screamed for some action. They knew it had to be called, we knew it had to be called and the few hardy fans left sitting drenched in the stands knew it had to be called, but NASCAR procrastinated for hours until biting the bullet.

Maybe it wasn't raining too hard in the ivory tower that NASCAR officials were sheltered in? Or maybe they had already left the track and would make the call once they'd cleared the traffic? Both suggestions are, of course, mischief making, but are among the many jokes made about NASCAR officials on Monday. That should never be the case for a sport of this stature.

Keith Huewen
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Had it been super-fast Kyle Busch, (leading until that crucial rain caution on lap 227), or any of the other more fancied teams or drivers I don't think they would have been left in pit road, rain soaked through and humiliated!

Miserable

It was a miserable anti-climax on what should have been a day to showcase one of the great events of the year. And it had all started so well on Sunday; a massive crowd had turned out for the Memorial Day tribute and pre-race show, a fantastic atmosphere of emotion, respect and pride plus a superb motor race. America at it's very best.

So what went wrong? Obviously nobody can control the weather, and heavy showers were unpredictable and regular in the North Carolinas all week but, in contrast to NASCAR's rapid decision making at Florida's Daytona 500 earlier in the year, this was farcical. Remember then how Mat Kenseth took the round one win still sat in his car on pit road after a shower? It was undoubtedly a quick decision by NASCAR but, based on weather radar information, the right decision.

The same radar was to hand in Charlotte but the circumstances completely different. To start with the teams were virtually at home, nearly all being based in the Charlotte area, plus the next round at Dover was not too far away, so nothing like the logistical pressures of Daytona, (they had to get right across America for the next round in California the following weekend), and there was still plenty of time left in the day for the race to go full distance IF the weather should change.

But, perhaps, NASCAR still felt that stinging criticism from some elements of the media and fans that Daytona was called too early, and this week, to compound the problem further, perhaps David Reuitmann would be too much of a surprise winner?

Hammering

So, with the rain still hammering down on Reutimann's parade, NASCAR squeezed the pips of patience to the absolute limit! Maybe they were waiting in hope that the fans that had already left the Speedway would get home to watch the rest of the race, (if there was a miracle of clear weather), hours later on TV?

On Tuesday a mandatory 'huddle' of teams, drivers and NASCAR officials try to work out a way of combating the fall in attendance/popularity/revenues. Well, d'oh! They might first try to work out a coherent wet weather policy.

The 'let's keep everyone hanging around for 24 hours to get a race in, (commendable), then appear to have no basic rule or structure in place to frame a decision on when or when not to wave the chequered flag', is not great. The mighty and unique '600' was in chaos and any new fans to the sport had already switched off - not good for Cup racing!

My studio guest, John Mickel, had it just right when he suggested that some communication from NASCAR could have made the situation so much better. An announcement of when each track inspection would take place and a distinct 'end game' if the rain was still falling would have been beneficial to everyone.

After all, it was a guessing game for the teams that decided the result of the first three places, a better knowledge of how NASCAR might react may just have seen a different winner!

Mischief

Maybe it wasn't raining too hard in the ivory tower that NASCAR officials were sheltered in? Or maybe they had already left the track and would make the call once they'd cleared the traffic? Both suggestions are, of course, mischief making, but are among the many jokes made about NASCAR officials on Monday. That should never be the case for a sport of this stature.

And what of nice guy David Reutimann? At this level of competition a win is a win. Cup racing is a hard-fought battle of speed and strategy and, occasionally, the result may not be as popular as the sport's 'spin doctors' or fans might like. But it is deserved. And the respect for ANY winner should never be undermined.

Fortunately for David Reutimann and team owner Michael Waltrip the history books, and the engraving on the trophy, will associate their names with only one word... WINNER.

What did you make of the fiasco? What should NASCAR do about their wet-weather policy? Let Keith know by filling in the feedback form below...

Comments (2)

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Kevin Gravenell says...

The reason they dont have rain tires is its just not safe enough. With the banking in the tracks they would just slide off, on a road coarse yes cos its flat. Why NASCAR made us wait that long i dont know if it was a jeff gordon or tony stewart they wouldnt of waited that long, they didnt wait that long in the daytona 500. I E matt kenseth won a former cup champ.

Posted 11:26 27th May 2009

Warren Newcombe says...

Daytona was called too early, although NASCAR did make the right decision in hindsight. It seemed that wrt the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR just wanted to give the fans a good race, which in the end was never to be. Either way, there's always going to be some one somewhere complaining. If I had've travelled across country to see a race, I would want to see the race, and I think this is what NASCAR wanted to provide. Reutimann was just in the right place at the right time, getting a good call from his crew chief, so I guess the win was his, but given that Shrub and Kahne had better cars (along with about 30 more cars in the field), won by default, and everyone else were just unlucky! I think NASCAR are to be commended for trying to get the race done but in the end were beaten by the weather. It'll be a long time before the Sprint Cup cars get slicks-would anyone else out there like to travel round a race track at speeds approaching 200mph in the wet with no tread on a banked circuit? And for just racing at The Glen, or Infineon,(although Nationwide did try in Montreal last season) its just not worth the R & D, so this is bound to happen again, but that's just NASCAR.

Posted 19:37 26th May 2009

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