Responding to questions about why Sunday’s shortened race wasn’t resumed Monday, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR vice president, said that’s not policy after an event becomes official at halfway.
“It really isn’t,” O’Donnell told SiriusXM Satellite Radio host Dave Moody in an interview Monday afternoon. “Fans can ask questions, and it’s something we can look at in the future, but for NASCAR, we’ve advertised the race on a certain date, and if we feel we can get the race in on that day, we’re going to do that.
“We started the race with every intention of believing we could get every lap in, but once it does reach halfway, the policy known in the garage that we’ve operated on is that’s considered an official race. We don’t want to always have to rely on that. We’re going to make every effort to get all the laps in, but unfortunately, we couldn’t do that on Sunday night.”
Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway was called after 219 of a scheduled 312 laps, making Dale Earnhardt Jr. the winner and putting Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. in the championship round of the playoffs with Jeff Gordon. That prompted questions about whether NASCAR should make it policy to run every playoff race to the end.
O’Donnell said there were several mitigating factors that precluded that at Phoenix, where the race began nearly seven hours after an original start time of 12:30 p.m. CT.
“Once it got dark, it’s much harder to dry the track,” he said. “Certainly, it’s not the way we want to finish. It’s always in our best interests of the sport to see the full race play out. We were just as disappointed, but we felt it was the right call knowing all that was behind it. All the time that had been spent trying to get to where we were that evening, felt like we had to make that call.”
As temperatures dropped into the 40s Sunday night, O’Donnell said the drying time for the 1-mile oval doubled and tripled, and another large storm loomed behind the shower that ended the race at around 9:30 p.m. CT.
NASCAR also considered the logistics of teams needing to return to their shops before a turnaround for the Nov. 22 season finale in South Florida.
“We knew if we got another heavy rain, we’d be facing a huge challenge to go back green,” O’Donnell said. “Seeing another big swath of green coming from behind on the radar, we knew we had no chance of finishing close to even before midnight.
“At that point, all the time that had been spent (dyring the track three times between rain showers), it wasn’t an evening race start that was just a slight delay. This was an event that was to have started close to noon locally. It’s a tough call. One we consult with the racetrack, knowing the fans have spent a great deal of time there already. consulting with the TV partners. Knowing what’s coming behind that, having to get to Miami and the logistics.
“Each race is unique. Each event is unique on that call. This is the one we chose to make at Phoenix.”