NASCAR Sprint Cup Duck Commander 500 weather update: Backup plan set as drying continues

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UPDATE (7:11 p.m. ET): While track drying continues at Texas Motor Speedway, a backup plan has been set should the Duck Commander 500 not go off tonight in Fort Worth.

If the race is postponed tonight, the race will start on Monday at Noon ET.

UPDATE (5:55 p.m. ET): While all pre-race ceremonies have been completed, the Duck Commander 500 continues to be held up as crews work to dry out the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.

Unfortunately, the process is taking longer than usual as NASCAR executive vice president of racing operations Steve O’Donnell has confirmed that “weepers” – streams of water rising from cracks in the track surface – are proving problematic:

We’ll continue to keep you posted on any further developments, but the general consensus is that NASCAR will once again race in prime time – if it races at all this Sunday.

UPDATE (4:15 p.m. ET): Driver intros have been completed, but while Fox Sports reported that the race’s start time was 4:31 p.m. ET, NASCAR has said that the start of the race is still on hold for now:

Media reports from Texas Motor Speedway say that pre-race ceremonies will continue on but track drying will continue after their completion.

UPDATE (3:35 p.m. ET): Fox Sports is now reporting that the Duck Commander 500 has been given a start time of 4:31 p.m. ET – less than one hour from now. Driver introductions are also expected to take place shortly.

UPDATE (3:13 p.m. ET): With the Air Titans and other track dryers making their way around the damp Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR has given word that driver introductions for today’s Duck Commander 500 have now been set for 3:45 p.m. ET, about a half-hour after the originally scheduled start of the race.

A typical Sprint Cup schedule usually has the green flag drop within the hour of those intros.

Although they probably didn’t think it when they were searching for a name, Sunday’s scheduled Duck Commander 500 is rather aptly named: the weather right now at Texas Motor Speedway continues to be for the birds.

Heavy rain has pounded the Fort Worth, Texas facility since the wee hours and continues as of 1:45 pm ET, with the temperature at 51 degrees.

The race is scheduled for a 3:16 pm ET green flag, but that’s likely not going to happen.

In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service radar and forecast, rain is expected to continue for the rest of the afternoon and into Sunday evening.

At 1:30 pm ET, the NOAA revised its forecast, dropping the chance of thunderstorms this afternoon for the Fort Worth area from 100 to 80 percent.

And where the NOAA originally had tonight’s forecast at 80 percent, it has since revised things to just a “chance of showers” and a 30 percent chance at that.

Then, less than a half-hour later, the NOAA went back to its original forecast of an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms until at least early evening.

Monday’s forecast indicates a chance of thunderstorms both during the day and evening, but only at 30 percent.

NASCAR and TMS officials are weighing their options, but there’s not many.

The track does not have a curfew, so if the rain stops later tonight and the racing surface is able to be dried by several Air Titan2 vehicles on site, there could be a chance of a very late start.

The race is scheduled to be broadcast on Fox Sports, but that could change if the event is pushed back deep into the evening.

NASCAR and TMS officials likely will do everything they can to get the race in tonight, regardless of how late it starts, because the last thing both entities want to do is go head-to-head with the NCAA men’s basketball championship game between Connecticut and Kentucky Monday night in nearby Arlington, Texas.

What’s more, according to a tweet by USA Today’s Nate Ryan, the track is rented out by at least one group Monday morning as a prelude before the championship game.

And waiting until Tuesday – when temperatures are expected to be in the low 70s and in sunny conditions (with little chance of rain) – is likely out of the question, particularly since the next NASCAR race is Saturday at Darlington. That would give teams less than two days to get back to Charlotte from Texas, turn around and reload and head out to Darlington, which is about two hours from Charlotte.

We’ll update you with any changing weather conditions, as well as any updates on a potential green flag, as they become available.

But right now, it looks like it’s going to be a long afternoon’s journey into night before we hopefully see any action on the track down in Texas.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.