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

Lewis Hamilton comes home to Mercedes factory after fourth title

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On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.

And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.

Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.

The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.

“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.

“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.

“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”

A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.