News & Media


Rain forces Chicagoland Chase race to Monday

September 18, 2011, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

A persistent rain fell at Chicagoland Speedway all day Sunday and NASCAR could never get the track fully dry. (Autostock)

JOLIET, Ill. -- First race in Chase history to be postponed and moved due to weather

After battling a persistent rain for six hours past the originally scheduled start time Sunday, the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway was postponed until noon ET Monday.

The race will be televised on ESPN.

"The track should have a ton of grip to start off. We'll have a competition yellow on Lap 30 to get the tires off and take a look at it. And by then the track should be pretty well rubbered in and hopefully back to the conditions we practiced in."

--MATT KENSETH

Pole-sitter Matt Kenseth said the rain that washed away the Sunday start also cleansed the 1.5-mile track of all the rubber that had been laid down during events Friday and Saturday. That could change the complexion of the start of the event on Monday.

"I think it will change the first 40 or 50 laps until it gets rubbered up again," Kenseth said. "Then I think it will be similar to what it was all weekend.

"The track should have a ton of grip to start off. We'll have a competition yellow on Lap 30 to get the tires off and take a look at it. And by then the track should be pretty well rubbered in and hopefully back to the conditions we practiced in."

This is the first race in the history of the Chase to be postponed and moved to Monday. There has only been one Chase race that was cut short due to weather -- the 2007 race at Kansas. That race went 210 of the scheduled 267 laps with Greg Biffle declared the winner.

Officials had moved the originally scheduled start time up 15 minutes to 2:03 p.m. ET.

Speaking at about 3:20 p.m. ET, roughly one hour and 20 minutes after the adjusted scheduled start of the race, NASCAR president Mike Helton talked about attempting to wait out the rain over the long haul.

"There's more [rain] coming, but it is moving and it's moving at a rate where the fact that we've got lights and the fact that we have got some time, we'll hang out and see what kind of course it takes," Helton said. "And it depends a whole lot on what kind of course it takes. It's obvious from the radar that there's more coming in the short term -- but in the long term, hopefully we can get this thing done [Sunday night]."

Helton added that it takes about two hours, "on average," to dry the 1.5-mile track. He was hoping for a window around 5 p.m. ET that seemed a possibility on the radar.

Asked how long he intended to wait before having NASCAR make the call, Helton replied: "We've got to be reasonable about it. We've got lights. The area is very cooperative and eager for us to be able to get the race in. But there still has to be reasonableness to it.

"We appreciate the fans hanging in there with us and we know that rain presents an issue that nobody has much control over. And it's uncomfortable but we appreciate everybody tolerating [it] and hanging in there with us. But I think it's in everybody's best interest to try to get it in [Sunday night] and we've got time to wait and see."

So they waited ... and waited ... and waited.

Shortly before 5 p.m. ET the rain stopped as Helton had hoped and jet dryers returned to the track -- but within 30 minutes, the rain started picking up again. Whatever progress had been made by the dryers was quickly negated.

The rain stopped again later and this time, about 7:15 p.m. ET, NASCAR officials indicated they were in line for a possible start shortly after 7:30.

But just as the track was nearly dry, another steady rain hit and within minutes NASCAR said they had lost the track again -- meaning another two hours with no rain would be needed to dry it and get the race going. They dispatched the jet dryers once more, but finally gave up when more rain hit shortly thereafter.

The race was officially postponed as of 8:03 p.m. ET.

In some ways, drivers were relieved at word of the postponement after sitting around at the track waiting for a possible green flag for more than six hours past the original starting time. Had they had to run the race at night, pretty much all the notes they had prepared after practicing during the day Friday would have been useless.

"We will study the temperature, adjust our tape [allowing air flow through the front grille of the car] accordingly -- and go into it with the philosophy of starting at 1 p.m. [local time] like we were supposed to," Kenseth said.

It was the second time in the past three Sprint Cup races that rain has interfered with the originally scheduled start. The race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, set for a Sunday night on Sept. 4, was postponed until the following Tuesday morning before it could be run.