Let’s be clear: it is absurd to conclude that NASCAR referred to as Sunday’s inaugural Cup Collection race at Circuit of the Americas when it did, merely to make sure Chase Elliott would win the event.
Nonetheless, by its actions in the course of the race – and failing to stick to classes it stated it realized about racing within the rain final season – NASCAR opened the door to all of the criticism its receiving, together with the ridiculous conspiracy theories.
There have been not less than two highway programs on the Cup Collection schedule since this author began masking NASCAR in 1998, however solely not too long ago has NASCAR tried to run an occasion whereas it was raining closely. Moist climate tyres have all the time been obtainable to make use of, however largely reserved for circumstances when a moist monitor was within the strategy of drying, quite than with the intention of conducting a complete race whereas it was raining.
That was till the previous few seasons, when regardless of heavy rain and standing water all around the course, NASCAR had determined to permit Xfinity Collection races to proceed in hazardous circumstances.
The difficulty got here to a head – not less than we thought then – throughout final October’s Xfinity race on the Charlotte Roval, which was run practically totally within the rain. It featured 10 cautions and an almost 39-minute red-flag for standing water on the monitor.
After quite a few complaints from drivers – together with road-course ace A.J. Allmendinger, who gained the occasion – NASCAR stated it had realized from the experiment and wouldn’t permit circumstances to get so treacherous earlier than calling a halt to the motion. However that was then.
A.J. Allmendinger splashes to victory in NASCAR Xfinity’s Charlotte Roval race in 2020
Photograph by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
In Sunday’s Cup race at COTA, an nearly an identical state of affairs started to play out with rain starting shortly after the race begin. Situations solely worsened because it went on and by the second stage, it was clear the three.41-mile, 20-turn monitor was being inundated with water. Views from inside rivals’ entrance windshields confirmed just about nothing – not a comforting thought after they had been touring upwards of 140mph…
Whereas NASCAR waited within the hope that circumstances would enhance, two violent wrecks unfolded on laps 19 and 25 which left it with no alternative however to place out a crimson flag and deal with the racing circumstances.
Within the second incident, Martin Truex Jr. was slowing after operating into the again of Michael McDowell when he was hit exhausting by an unsighted Cole Custer, who rammed Truex’s automobile at full pace and lifted it off the bottom. Fortunately, not one of the drivers had been injured.
NASCAR allowed groups to pit to handle visibility points on the vehicles and ordered all future restarts to be single-file. The race then resumed and circumstances appeared to enhance for some time.
However with lower than 20 laps remaining, the rain once more turned a lot heavier and as soon as once more standing water was evident all around the course. Lots of the sequence’ prime drivers had been complaining of a scarcity of visibility, however NASCAR inexplicably soldiered on.
Lastly, after Kurt Busch aquaplaned off the monitor and Austin Cindric – who had run a stellar race as a part-time entry – spun out, NASCAR threw the warning, and ultimately one other crimson flag. Because the climate circumstances continued with no obvious signal of bettering, NASCAR lastly referred to as the occasion official after 54 of the scheduled 68 laps.
The issue? Elliott, who was going to be quick on gas and compelled to pit if the race went its scheduled distance, was main, handing the defending champion a victory he would possibly in any other case could not had been in a position to earn on the monitor.
Brad Keselowski, Staff Penske, Ford Mustang Thomas Constructed Buses, Austin Cindric, Staff Penske, Ford Mustang Pirtek, Ryan Preece, JTG Daugherty Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Louisiana Scorching Sauce
Photograph by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
This being Elliott’s first of the season and permitting Hendrick Motorsports to tie Petty Enterprises for essentially the most Cup sequence wins in NASCAR historical past, criticism of the timing of the decision got here rapidly on social media. That was on prime of the continued criticism from NASCAR’s earlier reluctance to halt the race within the face of worsening monitor circumstances.
After the race, Scott Miller, NASCAR’s vice chairman of competitors, admitted the sanctioning physique might have reacted sooner.
“I might sort of personal the truth that perhaps we did let it go a bit of bit too lengthy earlier than we did one thing,” he stated. “It’s a studying expertise for all of us. We’ll be taught. We might be higher subsequent time.”
There is no doubt that NASCAR will be taught from the occasions of Sunday’s race, however the larger problem is that it stated it had performed simply that following the Xfinity Roval race, which occurred below practically an identical circumstances.
Why had been these classes apparently not realized and why did NASCAR determine to push the envelope once more on Sunday when it got here to racing within the rain? And, what has modified within the final couple years that has prompted NASCAR to need to run races in more and more dangerous climate circumstances?
Even some followers who’ve advocated NASCAR to race within the rain had been criticising it for creating harmful circumstances on Sunday. However to be trustworthy, a few of them additionally criticised NASCAR for pulling the plug with Elliott within the lead. Take from that what you’ll.
After the race, Elliott was requested what he thought the proper name could be within the conditions that occurred on Sunday, and harassed “it’s not my name.”
Race winner Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro LLumar
Photograph by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images
He’s precisely proper. It’s NASCAR’s name and NASCAR’s accountability to conduct the race whereas officiating the foundations it has set out for all rivals to observe.
For some unknown motive of late, with regards to racing within the rain, NASCAR has determined to go the place it has by no means gone earlier than. And every time it does, it has seen the very predictable penalties – dangerous wrecks, biting criticism from its individuals and being subjected to farcical conspiracy theories.
NASCAR continues to say it should be taught from its errors. One wonders, although, why this lesson particularly appears so tough to grasp.
Ryan Blaney, Staff Penske, Ford Mustang BodyArmor, crash
Photograph by: NASCAR Media