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Rain Sets Up A Texas Two-For

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 18 2010

The rain never let up at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday and as a result, there will be a NASCAR doubleheader there on Monday. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Fort Worth, Texas – Rain relegated NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide series teams to their haulers Sunday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, where Bill Elliott spent time un-stocking the Wood Brothers’ pantry.

“The truck normally doesn’t have enough food on it if it rains,” Elliott deadpanned. “That’s the first thing that goes. You can go on just about every hauler in this garage area when it’s raining and everybody is either telling lies or eating – if not both.”

There certainly was plenty of time for both pastimes as rain washed-out a unique Cup/Nationwide doubleheader and 800 combined miles of racing. Misting conditions and an ominous forecast forced postponement of the Samsung Mobile 500 Cup race and the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Nationwide event until Monday.

The Cup race is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., CDT, and televised by Fox. The Nationwide event is scheduled to start at 4 p.m., CDT, and carried live on ESPN2.

Gates will open at 9 a.m., CDT, while the track’s ticket office will open at 8 a.m. Tickets for the twinbill are available starting at $91.

NASCAR and TMS officials pulled the plug at approximately 4 p.m., CDT. “We knew about an hour ago that we had run out of time to get the Nationwide race in,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said in the infield media center. “We’ve been visiting with the National Weather Service and our thinking is it’s the fan-friendly thing to do to go ahead and pull the plug. Because they’re here, the Weather Service is telling us that we’re going to have mists – it’s not raining, it’s misting – but it’s not going to go away until a little after midnight. So why make them (the fans) sit here until 7 or 8 o’clock to make the call?

“With the humidity levels in the 90 percent range, it’s going to take three hours because it’s so high to dry the track. That meant you’d have to start drying by 5 or 5:30 to have a three-hour window to dry it to be able to start the race and get it done by a reasonable time. You start backing-it-out and it’s an easy call to make. Sad one, but an easy one. Hate it for the fans.”

Fans able to return will receive a perk, in that tickets for either race will allow access to the leadoff Cup event.

“Both are good for the whole day,” Gossage said. “If you have a ticket to the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 or a ticket to the Samsung Mobile 500, both are good for both races. What we’re going to ask fans is that if we both have the same seat for the two races, let’s be friends. There’s going to be enough room, so move down a row, move over a few seats. There’s going to be plenty of seats for everybody. Just work together. I think it will be just fine. We expect to accommodate all of those ticketholders and are optimistic that they will respect each other and find a nearby seat if they have the identical one.”

Monday’s forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 66 degrees and eight-to-10 mile-per-hour winds from the northeast. However, temperature for the green flag at 11 a.m. is expected to be 56 degrees.

This is only the second time that a Cup race has been rained-out and moved to Monday in the 14-year history of TMS. Matt Kenseth won the lone Monday matinee on April 8, 2002, driving from the rear of the field to win the Samsung/RadioShack 500. Kenseth had qualified his No. 17 DeWalt Tools Ford 31st – furthest back a Cup race-winner has started here. But he was forced to drop to the rear of the 43-car field after an engine change. Kenseth’s margin of victory over four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon was 0.888-seconds.

“One of the great moments in the history of this Speedway was in 2002 when we got rained-out and came back on Monday,” Gossage said. “That was a monster crowd on a Monday.”

The scheduled and combined 800 miles of racing Monday will be a single-day record. The last time a Cup and Nationwide race were run on a Monday was Feb. 24, 2008 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Carl Edwards won the Cup race, completing 324 miles of a 500-miler that was started on Sunday. Later, Tony Stewart won a 300-mile Nationwide race that was started from scratch.

Gossage said the economic impact on TMS and Speedway Motorsports Inc. will be significant.

“It’s not a lost weekend but it really hurts,” Gossage said. “We’ve got a lot of expenses. We’ve got to come back on Monday with another round of labor expenses. It costs about $15,000 an hour for us to open the gates. There will be places where we’ll have to repair the grounds after everybody leaves because of the rain. But a long time ago we put rock aggregate over pretty much every piece of land around here and grew the grass back over it. So this whole place is pretty darn weather-proof. That pays off.”

There figures to be a domino effect for TMS’ neighbors, too. The Northwest Independent School District, whose main campus is approximately one-mile from TMS, called off classes in 2002. But school officials announced that classes will be in session Monday, creating the possibility for traffic flow problems on Interstate 35 and State Highways 114 and 156.

“They have a traffic plan that they are going to enact,” Gossage said.

Two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala, will start the Samsung Mobile 500 on-pole. Making his 400th career Cup start, Stewart will be joined in the two-car front row by Sam Hornish Jr., who turned in a Cup career-best qualifying effort in the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger.

Joey Logano qualified on-pole for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 in the No. 20 GameStop/Red Dead Redemption Toyota Camry. He will be joined in the front row by Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 21 Zaxby’s Chevrolet.

A total of 15 drivers are scheduled to run both events, including the top four in the Nationwide Series _ Brad Keselowski, Edwards, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota, will be attempting to win his fifth consecutive Nationwide race at TMS.

Busch, the reigning Nationwide champion for Joe Gibbs Racing, established a single-day NASCAR record on Feb. 21, 2009 when he won the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series races at Auto Club Speedway.

Cup-wise, Monday’s race will be the first superspeedway test of NASCAR’s new rear spoiler package, which replaced the fixed raised wing two events ago. Also beginning with this race, Cup cars will sport a rear deck fin measuring 3.5-inches tall that can run the length of the 25-inch deck lid. The fin is designed to regain rear sideforce, giving teams a tuning tool to adjust for it.

Elliott, the 1988 Cup champion, will be making only his third start of the season in the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion he qualified 36th.

“What’s unfortunate for us is unloading and only doing a handful of qualifying runs and then start the race from dead scratch,” said Elliott, who started 34th and finished 16th in his most recent run March 7 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, sister facility to TMS. “This is the first race for us with the rear spoiler, so we’re way behind the 8-ball. We’ve just got to guess-and-go.

NASCAR officials announced during Sunday’s driver’s meeting that a competition caution would be thrown 25 laps into the race to allow teams to check tire-wear on a green/rubberless racetrack. On Sunday, the track and surrounding foliage got greener.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 18 2010
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