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First Chase race thwarted by rain

19 September 2011

The first race of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase, the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, has been postponed from its scheduled Sunday start because of persistent rain that didn't abate long enough to allow proceedings to get underway.

The race has been rescheduled for 11am local time (5pm BST) on Monday, after having been originally planned to start at 1pm local time on Sunday.

The forecasts on Saturday had indicated some possible trouble with showers on race day, but the weather closed in faster than expected overnight and left Chicagoland Speedway beset by waves of drizzle interspersed with heavy downpours and occasional drier intermissions right from the start of Sunday.

NASCAR kept the jet driers hard at work all day trying to get the track into a fit state to get the cars out on, and things were looking up when a longer dry spell appeared in the late afternoon.

After two to three hours of preparation track was pretty much dry when - as if on cue - another band of rain swept through the area around Joliet, Illinois and left the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway drenched again at just after 6pm local time. That meant everyone now faced at least another two hours of drying to get the track back to the position it had been in just moments before, even if there was no further rain.

NASCAR took one final look at the situation, studied the unpromising rain radar, and called it a day at a little after 7pm local time.

It's the third time in recent weeks that a race has been unable to start on the scheduled day and been forced to be held over into a morning weekday slot. The Watkins Glen road race in August was delayed until a Monday, while dreadful post-tropical storm weather sweeping through Georgia forced the race at Atlanta two weeks ago to be pushed onto a Tuesday. However, this is the first time that the opening race of the Chase has been forced to postpone.

The weather forecast for Chicagoland on Monday is favourable, with showers forecast for the morning but drying up rapidly in the afternoon.

Because the track will have been 'washed clean' of all the rubber laid down in practice and qualifying sessions as well as by the Nationwide and Truck support races, there will be a mandatory competition caution early in the 267-lap race.

"We have a competition yellow on lap 30 to get the tyres off and take a look at it and by then the track should be pretty well rubbered in and hopefully back to similar conditions we practiced in," explained polesitter Matt Kenseth. "There is going to be a lot of grip to start off. The track should have a ton of grip."

Kenseth's crew chief Jimmy Fennig was also taking the postponement in his stride, when asked if the delay affected the team's approach to the race.

"It doesn't really. We are pretty well set. The car is on the line. A delay is no big deal," Fennig said. "We might look at the temperature and readjust our tape [on the air-intake grille] or something like that, something little. We will just go on and plan like we had planned."

"I think we are okay," insisted Kenseth about his chances for tomorrow. "I think we need some improvements. I don't think we are a dominant car right now by any means ... . I think we will be close when we start the race and hopefully we can adjust from there."

Monday will tell if that's the case, and whether Kenseth can find success in the first race of the 2011 championship Chase.


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