A Mostly Forgettable Weekend

Driver Insider
Posted Feb 26, 2008


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. 

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 weekends for 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 JrReed 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. 
 
As 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 can't blame 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 spin by Dale Jarrett allowed him to coast home.  Kyle Busch finished fourth, and now leads the points. Matt Kenseth finished fifth.  Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, 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

By:  CrimsonCowboy


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