AVONDALE, Ariz. – The rain was persistent, resilient, and, in the end, too much for NASCAR to complete the full distance of Sunday night’s race at Phoenix International Raceway, leaving title contenders Joey Logano and Kurt Busch among those standing in the rain.
The race was called at about 11:30 p.m. ET, which was before the rain-delayed Daytona race in July began. But with a downpour soaking the 1-mile raceway Sunday, cool evening temperatures making track drying difficult and extending an event that was to have started nine hours earlier, it made it easy for NASCAR to end the race after 219 of 312 scheduled laps
.Then again, should series officials have done more?
“There was a lot at stake at this race, but, hey, it’s already called,’’ Logano said standing under an umbrella on pit road next to his car. “What am I supposed to do?’’
Logano needed to win to advance but finished third, leaving the six-time winner this season out of the title round. That means the series’ top three winners this year – Logano (six victories), Jimmie Johnson (five) and Matt Kenseth (five) – will not compete for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, also didn’t advance. He likely needed to win but finished ninth to winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Asked if it was fair to call this race early, Keselowski said: “I don’t think it matters what is fair. It matters what entertains the fans, and if the fans are happy, then that’s what it is all about.’’
Busch walked to his team’s hauler in the rain as NASCAR called the event.
“Its still raining right now,’’ he said. “They should have the jet dryers out there right now but, hey, it’s not a raceable condition right now.’’
Busch finished seventh after NASCAR penalized him for jumping the start. Replays showed he slightly beat pole-sitter Johnson across the line. NASCAR reiterated in the drivers meeting before the race that the pole-sitter had to be the leader across the line at the green flag.
“I had no reason to jump the start,’’ Busch said. “I had 312 laps to race my way into a championship round. We won races this year, we sat on poles and we did everything we could to work together as a team.’’
While Busch likely needed to win to advance, Carl Edwards had a chance to make it by points. Instead, he finished five points behind Martin Truex Jr. for the final transfer spot.
“We do not want to finish this like this,’’ Edwards said before being informed that NASCAR had called the race, leaving him with a 12th-place finish.