Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Xfinity’s Chicago Parade Rained On, Drivers & Owners React

CHICAGO — The NASCAR Xfinity Series’ inaugural Chicago street course race was on track to be the series’ biggest event of the season … until it wasn’t.

Kaz Grala, Jeremy Clements and Anthony Alfredo all noted it was one of the biggest racing crowds they’d ever seen when the engines fired for The Loop 121 on Saturday afternoon (July 2).

“I don’t know the number, so I might be wrong,” Grala told Frontstretch. “Maybe it was an illusion, but God, I swear it was the most people I’ve seen ever at an Xfinity race.”

“I’ve never see that many people at a NASCAR race, let alone an Xfinity race,” Alfredo piled on.

“Packed, every part of the track was packed,” said Clements.

“Really cool energy, cool vibe,” Grala added. “Everybody was obsessed with it.”

But lightning in the area brought the huge momentum boost for NASCAR and the Xfinity Series to a grinding halt. The race was just three laps shy of halfway when the red flag came out late Saturday evening. NASCAR rules indicate that a race must be halfway or stage two must be complete in order for a race to become official, neither of which were accomplished at the time it stopped.

So the race was instead postponed to the following day; resumption was scheduled for shortly after 10 a.m. CT. As a result, all of the teams had to scramble to find lodging to stay another day in Chicago.

Clements estimated it cost his team $1,500 to book hotels for another night, an extra expense that would’ve been worth it for him had the race resumed. He was in 20th but had just put on fresh tires and gained a fuel advantage on those in front of him.

Here’s the problem: the race never did restart. Drivers got back in their cars on Sunday morning, only to experience heavy rain — “a monsoon,” as Grala referred to it — that created a flood warning across the city and prevented the NXS cars from ever taking to the track again.

See also
Cole Custer Wins Rain-Shortened Xfinity Race at Chicago

The race was made official three laps shy of halfway, something completely against standard NASCAR protocol. The decision was made possible thanks to Section 1.6 of the Xfinity Series rulebook, part of which reads:

“On occasion, circumstances will be presented that are either unforeseen or are otherwise extraordinary, in which strict application of the NASCAR rules may not achieve this goal. In such rare circumstances, the NASCAR officials, as a practical matter, may make a determination regarding the conduct of an event, the eligibility of a competitor or similar matters that are not contemplated by or are inconsistent with the NASCAR rules in order to achieve this goal.”

Cole Custer, the leader at the time of the red flag, was awarded the victory in what he called the “most awkward win of my career.”

“Just because you’re so disconnected from the race,” Custer explained. “We raced 24 hours ago, so it’s definitely one of the weirdest wins I’ve ever been a part of, for sure, but we’ll take it.” 

Custer wanted to jump in the Grant Park fountain to celebrate but was advised it was a felony. It was a letdown for a Stewart-Haas Racing driver struggling to celebrate, noting he didn’t really know what was going on the whole time leading up to being declared the winner.

“I don’t know if anybody knew, really,” Custer said. “You go to your car, you get in and it’s like, ‘Oh, there’s standing water,’ and then we’ve got to wait and then there’s a lightning delay. There were just so many things that happened in the last 24 hours that I think led to this point.

“So I think it was just so many unforeseen things because this is the first time we’ve ever done this and throwing rain into the equation really throws a curveball at it. It was a lot of confusion, but it is what it is. We can’t control the weather.”

The decision to end the race before halfway caused a wide range of opinions. Justin Allgaier indicated on his radio it seemed the initial plan was to run out the three remaining laps before halfway and then call the race. Racing Monday did not appear to be an option.

“It’s no different than had we sat around and paced the two extra laps yesterday,” Alfredo said.

Grala defended NASCAR for not making the race official on Saturday night.

“The forecast last night for today [Sunday] did not look this bad,” Grala said. “Things certainly worsened.”

Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins wasn’t as thrilled with how things worked out, though.

“It’s frustrating because the decision that was made today was a decision that could’ve been made yesterday,” Martins told Frontstretch. “Even more so than money, it’s about the time.”

A few other drivers declined comment, surprising considering the magnitude of the street race and the impact its cancellation meant to the sport.

Not all opinions were negative. Despite weather negatively impacting the NXS race, many of the drivers thought the Chicago street course was a huge success. In fact, fourth-place finisher Brett Moffitt was initially against the idea of a street course, entering the weekend a skeptic only for the track to win him over by the time the race began.

“As soon as we did the track walk, I was like, ‘OK, this is a lot better than I thought it was going to be.'” Moffitt told Frontstretch.

It just didn’t end that way.

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About the author

Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.

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Bill B

What a ripoff. Bad call NASCAR. If this was a true race track they’d have come back Monday.
If there is such a thing as Karma, you are going to be rewarded with a rain out tonight for the Cup race and then the whole thing is going to blow up.
One thing I am sure they didn’t count on was having to compete with normal weekday business in the middle of a city. I am sure a lot of commuter are going to be pissed on Monday when all their normal routes are closed again. That should make the whole deal a total mess.

Or…. are they prepared to run this race in the dark. Once again, that could be a total mess.

Or… are they prepared to run this race in the rain. If so, why didn’t the Xfin race run in the rain.

No good options really. BOOOOM!!.

Rg72

Or… never have thought of this in the first place and be running at Daytona.

Christopher

Listening to the poor commentators on NBC right now trying to apply lipstick to this pig.

Shayne

I wonder what NASCAR’s free vouchers are going for on the screet?

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