I looked forward to the NASCAR weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Of course, I always look forward to going there because the entertainment quotient is so high. I was especially excited because there was going to be two races in the daylight, something I had wanted for the longest time. For the last few years, maybe longer, all Speedway Motorsports tracks had fallen in love with racing under the lights. It wasn’t my idea of a good time. It was finally going to happen.
I know the arguments for night racing. American sports fans relish in the nighttime event mainly because it’s party time. I understand the tracks liking it because if you start a race near dinner time, you can sell more concessions. I get it, but there is something about watching the race on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and relaxing with some food and beverage afterward. It was how I fell in love with the sport when that’s all there was.
Friday was a beautiful day. Lots of nice sunshine and a nice breeze. Then Mother Nature stepped in. After watching weather forecasts of sunny weather and low chances of precipitation all week, Saturday turned harsh. I mean real harsh. Downpours, cool temperatures, and overcast skies were the recipe of the day. A race from the XFINITY Series was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. It rained and it didn’t start. Track dryers worked hard to dry the track only to have a shower erupt and the process began all over. The lights came on and at 8:30 p.m. and the racing began under dark skies. A night race? Yes, and all those who were upset that it wasn’t a night race, got their wish.
It was a good one with young Alex Bowman, heir to Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 Chevrolet that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is vacating at the end of the season, in victory lane after Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez, and Sam Hornish had pretty much dominated the race. The fan’s desire for new blood was satisfied and a Chevrolet, the fan favorite in NASCAR, ended up in the top spot, ending the constant parade of Toyotas winning race after race. Bowman copied an original Blaney move (first done at Dover), giving the checkered flag to a youngster in the stands. And then it poured rain again.
Sunday started with overcast skies and periodic rain. Somehow, it stopped long enough to get the Cup race in. Martin Truex Jr. won again in a Toyota with fan favorite (besides Dale Junior), Chase Elliott, finishing second in his Chevrolet for the second straight race. Kevin Harvick finished third while Denny Hamlin’s Toyota that started on the pole, finished fourth and Jamie McMurray landed in fifth. Harvick won the first two stages and was always in contention, but cautions were kind to Truex as he smiled after taking the checkers. And then it rained again.
My first thought tonight was how fortunate it was that NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway had the smarts to change the start time of the race from 2 p.m. to 1 p.m. I also wondered what would have happened in a playoff race if it had been the usual nighttime start, and the rains which are still falling in Concord, NC, where the track sits would have postponed the race with forecasts of rain until Thursday? That’s a question that didn’t have to be answered, thankfully.