6 July 2014
Rain forces Daytona Cup race postponement
Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race has been postponed to Sunday because of steady rainfall at Daytona International Speedway.
Persistent showers and rain at Daytona International Speedway have forced race officials to postpone the running of this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race until Sunday.
Originally scheduled to get underway at 8pm local time on Saturday night, the 160-lap, 400-mile race was forced into a rain delay after inclement weather set in and refused to relent all evening.
With steady rainfall still an issue at 9pm and the 2.5-mile track likely to take at least two hours to dry even with NASCAR's state-of-the art Air Titan system, officials finally called it a day and announced that they would attempt to run the race at 11am on Sunday morning instead.
This weekend's race is the fourth Sprint Cup event to be impacted by weather this season, with the Daytona 500 - the first race of the 2014 season - suffering a six hour interuption because of the weather in February. However only the race at Texas Motor Speedway in April was actually postponed due to rain before this weekend.
Rain has been a factor throughout this weekend. It affected practice sessions on Thursday, and then caused the curtailment of qualifying for both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup events on Friday. The sudden arrival of rain even caused a nine-car pile-up in the Nationwide qualifying session before track activity could be suspended, while in the Cup session the weather turmoil left Front Row Motorsports driver David Gilliland on pole position alongside Tommy Baldwin Racing's Reed Sorenson.
The Nationwide race on Friday evening did finally go ahead, but only after an hour-long delay to get the track dried after further showers.
"We seem to have a little bit of bad luck right now. We had it in February, we have it now," said Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway, who pointed out that such prolonged rain spells were not the norm in the region. "When the temperature cools down, we lose all the pop-up storms and that's what happened [Friday] night [but] for some reason tonight, it just didn't happen. They just stayed there.
"Typically with the afternoon thunderstorms, we have them but by six or seven o'clock we're good to go; we're delayed a little bit. It was really unusual for it to still be raining at nine o'clock.
"With the rain still around us and coming down, we would not be able to dry the track for a reasonable start time tonight," he continued. "We worked with NASCAR as much as we could in terms of the timing. You reach a point right now where as it continues to rain, if we use an hour and 45 minutes to dry this track, which is a really short amount of time using Air Titan and the jets, typically we'd be well over two hours to dry the track.
"You start thinking about an 11pm start which means you finish the event anywhere from 2am to a little bit later. You think about public safety, getting people home, all those things," he added.
The problem for the track and for NASCAR is that the weather forecast for Sunday is much the same as it was for Saturday, with scattered thunderstorms in the morning becoming more widespread and persistent from mid-afternoon onwards. That was why officials decided to set the unusually early time of of 11am for to try and get the race started.
"It seemed like 11am was the earliest that made sense for the fans but to give us a bigger window of time to get it in tomorrow," Chitwood explained. "You'd hate to wait until noon and have some storms hit right after that."
"If I have any more bad weather weekends, I might have to retire and hand the baton to the next person," he sighed. "But obviously it's tough for our fans. Our fans are the ones who make the commitment, the investment to attend, traveling from far distances. So I really feel bad for delaying the event."
The postponement means that the race, usually held under the floodlights, will now most likely be a daytime event for the first time since July 1997.
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