Race Weekend Central

Frontrunners See Chances of Win Rained Out

HAMPTON, Ga. – With the eyes of crew chiefs trained on screens showing approaching rain, it became apparent during Sunday night’s Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway that the race was likely to shortened by weather.

“This race has a lot of intensity in general. You know that if you get shoved to the middle of the pack, that could be your race,” AJ Allmendinger said. “I think that’s why you saw everybody doing all they could to stay up front.”

After the caution was displayed on lap 178 for a three-car incident involving Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Preece and Bubba Wallace, the green flag would not be displayed again. Rain moved over the 1.54-mile quad-oval during the caution period. After a few laps behind the pace car, NASCAR red-flagged the race and declared with William Byron, who took the lead on 167, being declared the winner. The race became official at lap 130.

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William Byron Wins Rain-Shortened Cup Race at Atlanta

While Byron celebrated in the makeshift victory lane inside the speedway’s media center, drivers in search of the playoff-clinching win headed home empty-handed thanks to inopportune rain. Daniel Suarez finished second in front of Allmendinger and Michael McDowell.

“When you’re that close, it stinks,” said McDowell said.

Being in a position to win when the race was called was a win of sorts for McDowell, who fought back from damage sustained in pot road contact with Martin Truex Jr.

“Travis [Peterson] did a great job of maximizing our track position when we needed to,” McDowell said. “Obviously, the pit road incident took us out of the track position we were in, so we had to get creative. Thankfully, we were able to recover.”

“I’ll go back and watch the replay and probably get mad at myself,” McDowell added. “We just needed a little bit of help. It’s all about getting the right help at the right time.”

Suarez finished a close second on Sunday. Being so close to winning but coming up short brought mixed emotions for the Trackhouse Racing driver.

“Second is not great, but my team needed a bit of air to continue to fight,” Suarez said. “I’m very competitive and greedy, I wish I had one more shot.”

Did Sunday’s top finishers think that NASCAR should have thrown a quick yellow flag and restarted under green, even if it meant only one or two laps on a run to the finish?

“It was raining going into turn 1. Even though it does not seem like a lot, it does not take much at a place like this. We saw that at Daytona last year,” McDowell said. “Everyone could see the weather was all around us, throw the green and take a chance for one lap and you may or may not pile up, right? They did everything they could.”

As much of a buzzkill that Sunday’s race ending early was for fans in the stands, it could have been worse. Had the rain arrived prior to lap 130, it would have significantly delayed the race or postponed the conclusion to Monday morning.

“Actually, I think the rain got here later than we were expecting it,” Suarez said. “It worked out ok, the adjustments we made got the car better and we gained some positions.”

Rain was not the only concern. There was the threat of lightning that could have delayed things, too.

“Everybody is telling the driver that the weather is coming. I think the toughest thing to me was that it was not just about rain,” Allmendinger said. “You could be running a lap and lightning might hit. Basically, everybody was racing to lap 130 from each lap after that, we felt like that might be the white flag lap.”

And Allmendinger was among those glad that the race never restarted as rain approached.

“At a race like this, it’s hard to put us at risk and have a rain shower down the backstretch,” Allmendinger said. “I’d love to have one more shot at it, but I am also glad that they didn’t try to force us into making one or two laps before the rain really hit.”

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