In light of Sunday’s rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway – which was actually rescheduled from Saturday night’s rain-out – what happens if NASCAR is faced with a similar situation at one or more races in the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup?
Given how important the Chase for the Sprint Cup is, particularly this season with the expanded and revamped format and the three rounds of eliminations within it, I believe NASCAR has an obligation to run all 10 Chase races at their fully scheduled length – even if weather is an issue.
In other words, there should be no rain-shortened events in the Chase, even if it means coming back a day or even two later.
The reason is fairly straightforward:
NASCAR could afford to cut short the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona because it was one of just 26 regular season races and there was limited impact that it would have on the upcoming Chase.
Now had that race been IN the Chase, it’s a whole different story.
While NASCAR obviously runs races for fans both attending at-track and watching on TV, who are the races REALLY for in the whole big scheme of things?
With all due respect to fans, the Chase is entertainment for them, but the end result is not. Rather, the races — not to mention the resulting prize money — are for the racers, the drivers who are fighting for the championship.
And it’s my opinion that if NASCAR is going to spend millions of dollars on the revised Chase, it must run all laps of all races in it.
Even if it means finishing a race on Monday or even Tuesday.
Think about this very possible scenario: What if we get to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the season finale and it rains? I’ve been at Homestead when it has rained in the past and some might strong storms can come blowing in off the ocean literally a burnout away.
What if NASCAR gets the final race underway, only to have it interrupted by rain? And what if the rain doesn’t end – or show any chance of ending – until well after midnight?
Will the race resume in the wee hours of the morning?
First off, the TV ratings would be about equal to those of a late-night infomercial, which won’t benefit anyone.
Second, does NASCAR really want all that noise emanating from a speedway when there are hundreds of homes with a few thousand people trying to sleep within a half-mile of HMS?
Or what if the rain-interrupted race stops after the halfway point, say 140 of the scheduled 267 laps. Given that this year’s Chase finale features a four-driver, winner-take-all to determine the champion, does NASCAR do what it did at Daytona and award the title to the driver who was furthest ahead when the rain interrupted things?
That type of action would all but destroy all the goodwill and anticipation NASCAR has built up to this point about the most radical changes to the Chase format since it debuted in 2004.
Sure, we all want to see a race completed on time and on the day it was originally scheduled. But if you cut short a race or let fans or TV dictate how things should end up, NASCAR would do a huge disservice not only to itself but everyone else — including the fans and TV viewers.
Do you see the conundrum NASCAR is facing?
That’s why there’s no other way to determine a true champion than to run all laps in all 10 Chase races, even if it means coming back a day or two later to wrap things up if weather prohibits the race from being finished on it’s originally scheduled date.
Even if a number of fans are unable to stay an extra day to watch the finished product (due to work, school, etc.) at the track, NASCAR owes it to those same fans that their favorite driver – provided he’s still in contention in the Chase – has a chance to go all the way and be crowned series champion.
Even if those same fans aren’t present in-person or in front of the TV to watch the race and cheer their favorite driver on..
Anything less and the championship will be cheapened greatly, not just for fans but more so drivers and the integrity of the sport – and that’s the last thing NASCAR wants to do in such a pivotal year with such a pivotal format revision.
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