NASCAR explains decision to stop Daytona Cup race

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Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said that series officials hoped to run the final 33 laps of Sunday’s Cup race at Daytona International Speedway “but every indicator we had was that we weren’t going to be able to do that and kind of said enough is enough and for the safety and sake of everybody, unfortunately, had to call the race.”

The result was that Justin Haley, who was leading when the race was halted at 3:18 p.m. ET for a lightning strike was declared the winner when NASCAR called the event at 5:30 p.m. ET because of rain.

MORE: A look at other unlikely winners in recent NASCAR history

MORE: How signs pointed toward Justin Haley’s shocking victory 

The race had been delayed from Saturday night. O’Donnell addressed on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” why the series didn’t attempt to run the race later in the evening as it did in 2015. That race did not start until after 11 p.m. because of a rain delay and ended at 2:44 a.m.

“The time to dry the track (Saturday night) just didn’t give us the opportunity to potentially finish the race before 2, 2:30, 3 in the morning,” O’Donnell said. “We learned some hard lessons in the past of when we started a race really late, thought we had a window to finish the race, and we did but it was way too late, I think, for the competitors and for the industry. You learn as you go and not something we wanted to repeat, so we didn’t go ahead on Saturday night.

“(Sunday) again, long delay and long red flag and certainly wanted to see those last laps play out, but every indicator we had was that we weren’t going to be able to do that and kind of said enough is enough and for the safety and sake of everybody, unfortunately, had to call the race.”

Lightning delayed multiple activities throughout the weekend at Daytona International Speedway. O’Donnell explained the sport’s lightning policy.

“It’s fairly consistent for really outdoor events,” he said. “If you look at college football, they have the same policy. What that is, and it’s hard to understand if you’re sitting at home watching, but even if it’s not raining, if there is a lightning strike within 8 miles, that’s an immediate stop for us or as soon as we can get the cars stopped on track and an immediate plan for the track for them to evacuate their personnel.

“We rely on the track for that data and once that comes across our phones and notifications that it’s within 8 miles, we go into action and do that. From that strike, it’s a 30-minute minimum before we can resume activities. It’s almost like a countdown clock. You get another strike, you start the clock again. We had numerous (lightning strikes) throughout the afternoon. You saw us load the drivers back into the car and when we were about to fire the engines we had another lightning strike and that started the clock again.”

O’Donnell was asked about the key moment in the race just before the red flag. With the race under caution, series officials announced to the field that the green would come back out on the next lap. Kurt Busch led. Landon Cassill was second. Busch and Cassill pitted, allowing Haley, who was third, to assume the lead.

Shortly after that, NASCAR announced it was brining the cars down to pit road for a lightning strike. That would lead to Haley being declared the winner.

“We had obviously every indication that we were going to go back to green, but like I said, once you get an indication (of a lightning strike), you move as quickly as possible to bring the cars down pit road and red flag the race,” O’Donnell said. “We’re not watching who’s leading, who’s where in terms of when we get that indication. … We obviously put out over the radio that we were bringing the cars down pit road wherever we were on the track the next lap. This case, I think we were coming out of Turn 2 on that lap and notified everybody that we were bringing the cars down pit road.”

O’Donnell also explained how weather is monitored for NASCAR events.

“We’ve got about 20-plus people in race control ourselves with all the weather monitors,” he said. “Two doors down, the track has three or four people, all they’re doing for that race is looking at weather.

“We’re in direct contact on the phone. I was back and forth with those folks I’d say every five minutes. Very confident in the system that is in place, the alert system that is in place. Something that you never want to do, but when you’ve got safety of the fans and the industry at stake, you make that call. It’s the right call and we’re always going to do that.”

O’Donnell was asked that with only 33 laps left and the track having lights, why series officials didn’t wait out the weather and complete the race Sunday night.

“You look at when that race was supposed to start, which was the night before, already postponed,” he said. “You look at the following day when we started the race at 1 (p.m.) and the time of the red flag, how long we’ve waited for the entire industry and then what we’ve got to look at is what is a realistic time to get a race restarted and how long is right to have fans sitting around in poor elements across the board.

“All of our indicators were that was going to be an unrealistic timeline. We thought we put on a great race throughout the day and throughout the late afternoon. It’s unfortunate. We wanted to see those last 30 laps too, we thought in the interest of the safety and the fans that was the right call to make. You never know what is going to happen after make those calls but stand by it.”

Kaulig Racing hauler involved in accident on way to Kansas Speedway

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Kaulig Racing announced Wednesday night the hauler for its No. 10 team was involved in an accident on the way to Kansas Speedway for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.

Team president Chris Rice said in a statement released on social media that Kaulig’s two drivers for the hauler were alert and had been transported to a hospital for evaluation.

According to 13 WLOS, the accident occurred around 5 p.m. ET, and a state trooper said the truck’s driver and passenger were taken to Mission Hospital by ambulance with serious but non-life threatening injuries.

According to told Fox Carolina, the North Carolina Highway Patrol said the hauler was traveling westbound on I-40 in McDowell County when it went off the right side of the road near mile marker 93. It went through a guard rail and down an embankment before stopping in the woods.

Rice said the team still planned to field two cars in Saturday’s race.

Ross Chastain is entered in the No. 10 Chevrolet this weekend for his fifth start of the year with the team. Chastain was announced Tuesday as the full-time driver of the car next season.

Kaulig also will field the No. 11 Chevy of Justin Haley in Saturday’s race.

Silly Season scorecard: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finds new home in JTG Daugherty Racing

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was without a 2020 Cup ride for less than 25 days.

Only a few weeks after Roush Fenway Racing announced it was parting ways with Stenhouse in favor of Chris Buescher, Stenhouse has landed in Buescher’s old ride at JTG Daugherty Racing in a multi-year deal.

Stenhouse will have Ryan Preece as a teammate in his first full-time year with a new team in a decade.

Here are where things stand with Silly Season:

OPEN RIDES ANNOUNCED FOR 2020

No. 38: Front Row Motorsports must replace David Ragan, who stated Aug. 14 that 2019 would be his final season running a full schedule.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2020

No. 8: Richard Childress Racing made it official Oct. 2 that Tyler Reddick will move to Cup in 2020 and drive the No. 8 car.

No. 10: Aric Almirola confirmed Oct. 11 he signed an extension to race for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon posted a video Sept. 6 on Instagram refuting rumors that he would retire after this season. He has a contract with Germain Racing through 2020.

No. 17: Chris Buescher will take over the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 ride in 2020 after the team announced Sept. 25 that it would part ways with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after this season.

No. 20: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sept. 6 that it had signed Erik Jones to an extension. It is a one-year extension for the 2020 season.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto replaces Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing (announcement made Sept. 10). DiBenedetto’s deal is for 2020 only.

No. 95: Christopher Bell moves to Cup in 2020 and will drive for Leavine Family Racing (announcement made Sept. 24).

JTG Daugherty Racing: It was announced Oct. 16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will join Ryan Reece at the two-car team, essentially swapping seats with Chris Buescher.

AMONG THOSE YET TO ANNOUNCE DEALS FOR 2020

Clint Bowyer His contract expires after this season with the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team. Take it whatever way you want but Bowyer stated Sept. 20 that he did a commercial shoot in September with Kevin Harvick for next season.

Kurt Busch His contract expires after this season. Car owner Chip Ganassi has suggested in media reports that a deal will be done. Busch declined to discuss much about his contract status before the Sept. 29 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, stating: “We haven’t really started talks. I felt like it was good to get the playoffs underway and go as far as we could comfortably. Man, there’s a lot going on and we’ll see how things play out. Again, it’s all about all the stars lining up with Chevrolet, Monster Energy, myself, Chip. For me, I feel like things haven’t progressed because of the focus on the playoffs.”

Daniel Suarez He has said that both he and the team have an option on his contract for next year. He has remained confident that he will return to Stewart-Haas Racing to drive the No. 41 car.

Xfinity Series

Ross Chastain – Kaulig Racing announced Oct. 15 he would compete full-time for the team in 2020 driving the No. 10 Chevrolet.

NASCAR America presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET with Jimmie Johnson

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Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is the guest of honor on this week’s episode of NASCAR America presents MotorMouths, which airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Johnson joins Marty Snider and Kyle Petty. Together they’ll discuss this week’s storylines and take fan phone calls.

You can call in at 844-NASCAR-NBC or reach out on Twitter via #LetMeSayThis.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Tanner Gray to make Truck Series debut at Martinsville

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Former NHRA Pro Stock champion Tanner Gray will make his Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut in the Oct. 26 race at Martinsville Speedway, DGR-Crosley announced Wednesday.

Gray, 20, will drive the No. 15 Toyota in the final three Truck Series races of the season.

This is Gray’s first season in NASCAR competition after also racing in super late models.

Gray competed full-time in the K&N Pro Series East this season for DGR-Crosley, where he earned one win, six top fives and nine top-10 finishes. He also claimed one pole on his way to finishing third in the point standings. He made three starts in the K&N West Series and earned two poles and three top fives.

MORE: Tanner Gray embracing NASCAR after drag racing career

“I’m excited to make the step up to the Truck Series,” Gray said in a press release. “I think it’s going to be challenging, but I’m ready to take the next step with my DGR-Crosley guys. We’ve been preparing for this all season, and I think the best way to learn is to go out and do it. Between testing and spending time in the Toyota simulator, I think I have a good feel for Martinsville and will be able to adapt quickly. We will have three practice sessions to get acclimated and get the truck where it needs to be. We just need to keep our nose clean in the race and have a solid day on pit road.”

Gray’s K&N team will make the transition to the Truck Series with him for the remainder of the season. Seth Smith will serve as crew chief duties while veteran Eddie D’Hondt will be his spotter.

“I’m really looking forward to Tanner’s Truck debut after the building season that he’s had,” Smith said in a press release. “He’s learned a lot from where he started at the beginning of the season to where he’s at now. We tested at Martinsville and I feel like we had a really successful test session.”