Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Did NASCAR Handle Its Snow-Out Correctly?

Snow postponed the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at Martinsville Speedway from Sunday to Monday for the first time since 1993. How do you think NASCAR handled the situation?

Matt McLaughlin: They were in a difficult position, but in the end, postponement was the only valid option. I’d have liked to see them bite the bullet and announce the postponement Saturday to prevent all the fans who drove along some sketchy roads in the outside chance they got the race in Sunday. Still had a pretty good crowd for a Monday event.

Christian Koelle: NASCAR did a great job at handling the situation it was dealt. Any time you have these issues, it’s always is a struggle on the logistics side. Last season, when continuous rain hit Bristol Motor Speedway in April, by 9-10 a.m., we knew that racing wasn’t going to happen, and NASCAR ultimately postponed the race to Monday. NASCAR is getting better at postponing races and giving fans the chance to plan ahead.

Mark Howell: NASCAR didn’t have any other choice but to shift events to Monday. Weather is a variable that cannot be outsmarted, and the schedule is so tight that taking away the Easter off-weekend would likely rile teams who appreciate much-beloved (and -needed) time at home.

Wesley Coburn: It probably would have been better if NASCAR could have called the postponements on Saturday night, but in general it probably did the best it could. You can’t control the weather, and it was important to try to keep the fans safe on the roads. Since it was already going to be a cable race, running on Monday didn’t matter much TV-wise.

Mike Neff: I would have liked to have seen NASCAR call it on Saturday night; it was pretty obvious that they weren’t going to race. Some people actually drove up there Sunday, only to be disappointed. Outside of the delay in the announcement, NASCAR did a great job. I hate it for Martinsville, because it lost a lot of money due to the people who were not there buying the famous hot dogs on Monday.

Amy Henderson: There are plenty of situations where you can look at NASCAR’s decisions and wonder if they could have been any worse, but this wasn’t one of them; NASCAR handled it perfectly. I agree with making the decision Saturday; it was clear by midnight that parking was going to be a disaster, and that first responders would be needed elsewhere.  In the end, that was the deciding factor — it would not have been good if someone was injured in an accident and the police were tied up directing traffic at a NASCAR race.

With Clint Bowyer snapping his 190-race winless streak, he now has all-but-secured a spot in this year’s playoffs. Given how hot Stewart-Haas Racing has been to start the season, what are his chances of adding more wins to his 2018 tally?

Neff: I could see Bowyer winning another one. I also see Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola winning this year . It is not unrealistic to think the SHR organization could close the season with somewhere close to a dozen victories.

Koelle: Wouldn’t put him past winning at Bristol, a race where he finished second last season. Sonoma and Richmond raceways are other tracks you can’t put past him, especially since he has a car that has proven it can win.

Coburn: Everyone else will start winning soon, keeping Bowyer from getting too more victories this season, but he’ll enter the playoffs with two wins.

Henderson: If you’ve paid attention, Bowyer’s win should not have been a big surprise.  He’s been running well to kick-off 2018 and had the look that suggested it was only a matter of time.  SHR is on a roll and could well have four cars in the playoffs on wins.  Bowyer can easily win another race, and he’ll be a threat on consistency as well.

McLaughlin: Never underestimate the value of self-confidence, By his own admission, Bowyer was beginning to doubt himself.

Howell: Bowyer certainly has a chance to win more races in 2018. He’ll be a force at both Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway (he’s a good plate racer) and probably at places like Richmond. He is in a good spot right now, both professionally and personally.

There was only one organic caution at Martinsville in the Cup race, besides the competition caution and two stage breaks. There have also only been 32 cautions so far this season. What’s the reason for the decrease in yellow flags?

Howell: Drivers seem satisfied with conditions remaining as is. The winning cars have been strong enough to ward off challenges, and the remainder of the fields (as limited as they have been) have overall steered clear of the frontrunners. While some celebrate the new era of caution-free racing, the core NASCAR fans honestly want more bent sheet metal and hurt feelings. Looks like we can’t have both.

Henderson: Sometimes NASCAR just can’t win.  People complain when there are cautions and then complain when there aren’t.  Monday’s race was very good; it didn’t need wrecks to make it that way.  There’s a faction that watches for the wrecks, but that was a solid, authentic race, just what fans say they want.  That said, while I agree there’s a lack of aggression, that’s partly on NASCAR.  There’s nowhere to work and make cars mechanically better, and now with the sealed engine rule, there’s even less reason to take risks.  The stages have brought some hard racing to places where it didn’t happen before, but there’s not much that can be done to force teams to push the envelope when they can’t fix cars after a crash and can’t make any gear and suspension decisions on their own.

Neff: There are a few reasons. 1) With stages, NASCAR has decided not to call bogus debris cautions. 2) On bigger tracks, the cars are all so equal in speed, that once the tires give up a little bit, they don’t get close to each other. 3) Cars are so dependable now that nothing fails on them; it is very rare to have catastrophic parts failures that lead to accidents anymore. 4) Monday’s race was a postponed race, which always seem to be run more cleanly.

McLaughlin: In baseball terms, Monday’s race was a getaway game; everyone just wanted to run the race and get it over with so they could sort out the rest of their responsibilities for the week or to start their vacations prior to one of three off-weekends in Cup this season. Several incidents that could have drawn cautions Monday did not, and of course, cautions breed cautions. Throwing one unnecessary caution late in an event can trigger two or three more.

Koelle: For some reason, the aggression from Daytona International Speedway hasn’t shown up yet, and it’s got to be frustrating to a lot of people. It’s not just the cautions; the racing has been lackluster this season, and something needs to be done. Stage racing hasn’t worked this year, and it’s resulting in a stale product on the track.

Bowyer is known to be one of the biggest partiers after wins in the NASCAR garage. Who is one driver, alive or deceased, that you’d want to throw some back with?

Coburn: Mark Martin would be a cool person to have a beer with; seems like a lot of history could be learned that way. Brad Keselowski would be interesting to spend time with, too; I appreciate how thought-out and articulate his opinions are.

Koelle:  It would have been cool to hang out with Tim Richmond. He seemed like the real big party guy back in the day, and partying with him would’ve been a big deal. Out of all the current drivers, I really want to take a cross country trip with Ryan Blaney and Darrell Wallace Jr.

Howell: Without question, I’d want to party with Curtis Turner. Pops never let something like a race stop him from having a good time, and the stories recalling his social exploits have become the stuff of NASCAR folklore. Not many of today’s drivers would land a plane on a public road in order to stop and buy a bottle of booze, nor would they care about taking off again, tearing down power lines and blacking out the entire town — as was the case, supposedly, in Gaffney, S.C. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with Turner, but it would have been fun to try. James Garner did; I have a photo to prove it!

Neff: I would love to have a real party with Ken Schrader. I have had a couple beers with him but nothing on the magnitude of what I know he’s capable of. I’d also like to have a few with Dale Earnhardt Jr. I have seen the after pictures of his coolers from the Martinsville win, and I wish I could have participated in that one.

Henderson: Schrader.  He’s got some great stories and is a good storyteller, plus he’s raced everything there is to race. Bonus points if it’s him and Kenny Wallace together. The other one would be Brendan Gaughan, because his off-road racing stories are gold.  He grew up racing with Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears, so again, bonus points for all three.  Johnson has some pretty epic stories, too.

McLaughlin: Curtis Turner and his pal and running buddy Little Joe Weatherly were said to be the hardest-partying duo ever on the NASCAR circuit. Their parties weren’t particularly politically correct, but they did boost a lot of BACs. In the modern era, I’d have loved to have been buddies with Tim Richmond. I did get to shoot a game of pool (poorly) with him at a bar near Pocono Raceway one weekend, and he treated me and my buddies to a round afterward. He was genuinely funny, humble and real, and the ladies loved him. Yeah, I know; you asked who I wanted to party with, not who I thought was a good role model for kids.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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Not to belabor the point, but the real issue is not how the postponement decision was handled. It is the bigger picture and the fact that Martinsville is scheduled in March in the first place. Yes not every track is going to get races when there is the greatest likelihood that it will be sunny and 75 degrees. Even before this year the scene along pit road for many of the March Martinsville races has been more reminiscent of late-season NFL games.
Even scheduling it just two weeks later, you could with 99% certainty substitute the word snow with rain and first responders are not diverted, barring severe weather associated with the rain.
Smarter scheduling (both dates and times) goes a long way toward reducing the number of these decisions NASCAR has to make on a race weekend. Trust me, we will have this same discussion in the near future when rain shortens or postpones a race at Pocono and Dover (or the others in the summer stretch) because of these 2:30-3:00 start times.

Off the soapbox. Happy Easter.


Agreed rg72
NASCAR needs to work on its schedule.
Atlanta in February of course its cold. Same for Martinsville.
Why not start at Daytona, go the Homestead, to Texas for 1 of its dates, then to the west coast.

Al Torney

The decision to race Monday has always been the policy. Today ever6 decision made by NASCAR is questioned. Primarily because most writers are amateurs and can thin’ of nothing else to write about.
I was really surprised by the Monday attendence for the Cup race. Far better then I expected. Says something about the popularity of the track.

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