NASCAR was hoping to keep the momentum from a
great Daytona Speedweeks going into
California. As it turned out, it was a tough weekend for the drivers,
teams, and fans of the sport. Problems with the weather and the track to go
with the long wait to delay the race until Monday made it a long, and for
some, frustrating weekend. Only
Auto Club 500 winner Carl Edwards can really say that he had a great
weekend at Fontana.
Coming out of Daytona week,
NASCAR and its fans had many reasons to be pretty happy with how the
season started. So,there were a lot of reasons to be happy going into the
weekend at the Auto Club Speedway at
Fontana, California. By the time racing ended Monday afternoon, the
sport was probably glad to see the weekend over. It wasn't the greatest of
NASCAR. Most of it not their fault, but there certainly was one thing
they could have done better.
A sign of things to come came
Friday afternoon. Rain showers during the day kept the Sprint Cup cars
off the track, thus washing out practice and qualifying. The Craftsman Truck
Series was able to race Saturday (won by Kyle Busch), but the showers
returned, ending Sprint Cup practice very early and pushing the Nationwide
Series race to Monday.
The problems did not end Sunday. Far from it.
Rain showers earlier in the day had pushed back the start of the
Auto Club 500 by more than an hour. And even then, things weren't
exactly hunky dory. On lap 15, Denny Hamlin lost control and hit the wall.
Then on lap 21, Casey Mears lost control, then collided with teammate
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Reed Sorenson and
Sam Hornish Jr. also were involved, with Hornish running into Mears,
knocking him onto his side. Then to make matters worse, Hornish's car caught
fire. But, because of the swift response from the safety crew, the fire was
put out quickly and there were no injuries.
The lap 21 wreck caused a red flag to come out.
During that delay, there were some frustrations aired out at
NASCAR. Both Denny Hamlin and
Dale Earnhardt. Jr criticized the decision to race, saying the track
was not ready. Other drivers, including Reed Sorenson did not share that
opinion. What was realized was that water was seeping in from below the track
onto the race surface. Replays showed that Hamlin and Mears hit slick spots
on the track. The race was delayed yet another hour plus for track crews to
work on that problem.
Once the race resumed, that problem was fixed, but
weather became an issue yet again. Twice, rain forced a caution. A red flag
came out after 87 laps were completed. The question was when the race would
resume. It turned out to be a lengthy delay before a decision was made. It
certainly had to drive those at Fox crazy. Because of the delay, Fox did not
show most of their primetime Sunday lineup on a night in which they would be
competing for ratings with The
Oscars on ABC.
Sunday night was turning into
Monday morning in the eastern part of the country,
NASCAR still had not made a decision. Even when it was 1:00 AM,
NASCAR still had planned on running the race to its completion, despite
the fact that they had to know that many in the Eastern and Central time zones
would already be in bed. Finally, at 2:00 AM,
NASCAR decided to put off completing the race, having it restart at
1:00 PM Eastern. Now, you can't fault
NASCAR for the weather. Nobody in this world can control that. You
NASCAR for the track. That's up to the speedway officials to make sure
that doesn't happen. Though
NASCAR could have been more careful in the decision of when to race
perhaps. But making fans wait for hours until making a decision to delay the
race until the next day was not smart. In that respect, the sport took a
public relations hit. Now, how much did Fox influence that is unknown. But,
making the fans wait as long as they did was, to put it bluntly, very dumb.
Hopefully they will learn from that.
Once the green flag dropped to resume the race, it
was the Carl Edwards show. He basically dominated the day on his way to a
comfortable victory over the Hendrick Racing duo of Jimmie Johnson and
Jeff Gordon, who finished second and third respectively. For Gordon, a
last lap caution was a huge break. He revealed in his post race interview
with Fox that he blew an engine on the last lap. But a caution because of a
Dale Jarrett allowed him to coast home. Kyle Busch finished fourth,
and now leads the points.
Matt Kenseth finished fifth.
Martin Truex Jr.,
Kasey Kahne, and
Daytona 500 Champ Ryan Newman rounded out the top ten.
The long weekend finally ended late in the day
with the Nationwide Series race.
Tony Stewart dominated that race on his way to the win.
All in all, unless you are a Carl Edwards fan,
this weekend was not a great one for the fans. Bad weather, bad track
conditions, and bad decisions by
NASCAR of how long to wait made for a tough, and a rather irritating
time of it. But, it's over and there is nothing we, or the sport can do about
it now. Here's hoping that
Las Vegas weekend resembles, at least in some respect, more of Daytona
rather than Fontana. The fans deserve that at least