Delays, changing conditions left teams scrambling
June 10, 2013, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com
Red flags, clean track throw curve balls at Nationwide teams
NEWTON, Iowa -- Tracks change from year to year, and that’s especially true for Iowa Speedway. The harsh, Midwest winter dumps piles of snow onto the 0.875-mile oval, and the oval in the spring is far different from what it was the past fall once the digging out is completed.
This weekend at Iowa, though, the biggest track challenge wasn’t the change from last year. It was the change from the previous day.
Teams set up their cars to run the DuPont Pioneer 250 on Saturday night, under the lights of a projected cool summer evening.
So when the clouds collected and dumped rain onto the facility, postponing the event until Sunday morning, cars were re-purposed and strategies were re-formulated deep into Saturday night in sessions that spilled over into Sunday morning.
“At night, the track is just different than it is during the day,” said Elliott Sadler, who finished third Sunday for his fifth top-five in five Nationwide Series races at the track. “The bump is back in Turn 1, where it wasn’t there last year, and it’s just built up character. For me, (delaying the race) made us looser, so we made some air pressure adjustments and learned a few things about this speedway. We know it’s a race we can win when we come back in the fall.”
The beginning of Sunday’s race was often a cautious, feeling-out ordeal under the sunlight. But even that wasn’t a constant. A rain shower popped up suddenly, bringing out the red flag at Lap 168. Even when racing resumed 1 hour, 9 minutes and 57 seconds later, it was … different.
For the second time in 16 hours, showers washed away the built-up rubber, giving the track less grip. The final 82 laps were also run under skies that were cloudy, making conditions much cooler.
“I felt like our car changed dramatically when the sun was out, and then when the clouds came out,” said race winner Trevor Bayne, who chased down Austin Dillon and led the final 11 laps. “That was part of the reason we caught Austin at the end of that run. The clouds came out and we were able to run him down.”
The red-flag period produced a few unusual moments out in the garage area, too.
Drivers gave television interviews and milled around their haulers, interacting with team members and each other.
Several ate bananas and drank orange juice. Some tried to catch a quick nap, fearing a lengthy delay.
And when the race ended 18 hours after it was initially scheduled to begin, there was almost a tangible feeling of accomplishment for working through a rainy week to go the advertised distance -- especially when heavy storms began in the area 30 minutes after the checkered flag fell.
“It was a long weekend with the rain, but the (red-flag period) went by pretty quick,” said Kyle Larson, who finished fifth in his No. 32 Chevrolet. “It would have been nice to get the race in Saturday so we wouldn’t have to worry about it, but hey, we got it in. I love racing at Iowa Speedway, and I’m glad we were able to go the full distance.”