The Rain-Delayed 499
It was a very wet weekend in Talladega but that didn’t stop NASCAR fans from sticking it out through the mud and the muck. It seemed like the only dry days were for practice and Nationwide Series qualifying.
The rain started on Saturday and forced NASCAR to cancel Sprint Cup Series Qualifying which left the field being set from Friday’s first practice session. Carl Edwards captured the Pole but since they didn’t race for it, it doesn’t count towards next season’s Sprint Unlimited race. Having Pole qualifying rained out left many to wonder who really had the fastest car for the Aaron’s 499.
The cancellation of Sprint Cup Qualifying was just the start of the issues that the rain would cause. Saturday’s Nationwide Series Race was delayed over three hours after rain dampened the track. It was beginning to look like the Aaron’s 312 was going to have to be run after the Sprint Cup race on Sunday but, after shortening the race a few laps, they were able to get it in before dark sending Regan Smith to Victory Lane in a very close and chaotic finish. Watch it here!
Sunday was a day for blue skies, but not over the race track. The race was delayed an hour to dry the track and when they finally did fire up the engines, drivers and the crews were making bets as to how many laps they were going to be able to get in before the rain forced the cars down pit road. Shortly after lap 100, drivers were starting to report rain drops on their windshields and by lap 125, the race was red-flagged and the cars sat covered on pit road, for three hours.
Three hours and thirty-six minutes to be exact. That is how long the red flag lasted. After a few sprinkles, the new track dryer, the Air-Titan, took to the track and it looked like racing was going to resume until lightning and thunder off in the distance nixed that idea. The storm produced small hail and a torrential downpour that, after it passed, took over 90 minutes to dry.
The three and a half hour rain delay left the broadcasters scrambling for fill. Denny Hamlin, who started the race then made a driver switch with Brian Vickers, sat up in the Hollywood Hotel for the entire red flag and the end of the race which probably left him with a sore rear-end but great publicity for sponsor Fed-Ex. The pit reporters and broadcasters interviewed most if not all of the drivers and many Crew Chiefs, even taking over the drivers Motor-home lot to catch a few of them playing with their kids.
While many local Fox stations took over the broadcast to show local news after hour two, NASCAR and Fox Sports stayed on air for those stations, like mine, who stayed with them.
The race ended up lasting 7 hours and 2 minutes. That is over 7 hours of LIVE broadcasting. Add in the 2 hour live program on SPEED titled RaceDay that airs before each race, that’s over 9 hours of live NASCAR racing. From someone who is hoping to one day be out there on pit lane with a camera in her face and a microphone in her hand, that sounds both terrifying and exhilarating. Live TV is unpredictable, especially when you are doing interviews and scrambling to fill time, I really do applaud each and every one of the broadcasters, camera crew, and whoever else was involved that stuck it out, even in the rain.
In the end, the race restarted and the Goliath were taken down by two Davids. David Ragan and David Gilliland, both driving for Front Row Motorsports, snuck up through the field, avoided two “big ones” and beat the Sprint Cup ringers to send Ragan to Victory Lane for the second time in his Sprint Cup career. It was great to see an underfunded team come out victorious and finish 1-2 in the end. So to the broadcasters and crew who stuck it out during the rain to bring us continuous race coverage, again, I applaud you. And to the David’s, a hard battle fought really does lead to the great taste of victory.
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