The AAA Texas 500 was deemed official by NASCAR 41 laps from its scheduled finish Sunday night due to rain, to the chagrin of some.
With berths at stake in the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the question driver have faced was whether Chase races should weather-shortened. In its current elimination-style format, Texas was the second Chase race to be shortened by rain. Last year, the penultimate race at Phoenix International Raceway ran only 219 of the scheduled 312 laps.
During his weekly appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said the sanctioning body stands by its policy that a race is official once it reaches the halfway point.
“I think Joey Logano probably said it best – we make every effort to get the race in under its advertised distance,” O’Donnell said. “I think you saw especially the circumstances yesterday with over six hours to try to dry a racetrack, at some point you’ve got to keep the fans certainly in mind, but also the competitors, the amount of time that they’ve had preparing for a race, and when does it get too late.
“So we’ve always looked at if you get past halfway, that’s considered a complete race, and we do make every effort to get the full race in and we did that yesterday. We were a little short; that’s unfortunate but the policy that’s been in place, we feel like is one that should stand. Never something that we want to have to enact, but, unfortunately, yesterday and really last night you saw that have to come into play.”
Carl Edwards was declared the winner at Texas and joined Jimmie Johnson as the first two drivers locked into the title race in Miami. Ironically, Edwards was the first driver out of a transfer spot last year at Phoenix.
It was pointed out to O’Donnell that Major League Baseball changed the rules for its postseason and World Series to ensure each game would be played to its scheduled nine innings. It was put into effect following the 2008 World Series when Major League Baseball faced a potential crisis in a crucial Game 5 that year between the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays.
Rain could have made the game official in the fifth inning, but commissioner Bud Selig decided the game would go a full nine innings before the event had even started. The rules were officially changed following that season.
O’Donnell said he would never rule anything when it comes to NASCAR making a change. However, he also acknowledged the logistics for NASCAR returning to a track the next day to complete a race versus a baseball game doing the same, are different.
“I think there’s some things involved too with cars going at Texas over 200 miles per hour and at what point is too late to continue a race, so there’s a lot of things that go into this with logistics,” O’Donnell said. “I’d never rule that out, it’s something that we’ll take a look at, and the sport always continues to evolve, but where we are right now those are the rules the competitors race under and accept.”
There was also no guarantee NASCAR would get the race in, as the forecast for areas surrounding the track also showed rain. There was also the battle with track drying due to weepers and water continuing to come through the porous surface.