Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ruetimann wins rain-soaked Coca-Cola 600

It's just not NASCAR's year. Having the Daytona 500 shortened by rain was bad enough, but for the Coca-Cola 600, on its 50th anniversary, to also succumb to Mother Nature was just depressing, on a lot of fronts.

Perhaps the only people happy with how the weekend unfolded were David Reutimann, who won the race on Monday when rain forced the conclusion after just 227 laps, and Michael Waltrip, who owns Reutimann's car. Everyone else? Wet, frustrated and eager as all hell to get to Dover this weekend.

Weather plagued the entire weekend, even cutting Saturday's Nationwide Series event short by 30 laps. Mike Bliss won that race in what would prove to be the weekend's most substantial on-track action. Showers littered the Concord, N.C. area for parts of Sunday, but the track was dry when prerace festivities began shortly after 5 p.m.

Unfortunately, a powerful storm pushed through just before the drop of the green flag, sending NASCAR into dry-the-track-and-watch-the-radar mode. The rain was persistent, never allowing track officials to dry the surface, and at 8:30 p.m., NASCAR made the decision to postpone the Coca-Cola 600 until noon the next day.

Problem was, Monday's forecast was just as bleak, if not worse. Seven laps into the race, rain fell. Roughly 70 laps later, rain fell again. The race on Monday was plagued by three red flags for precipitation, the final burst coming 27 laps past the halfway point. NASCAR waited two hours before realizing the track wouldn't be dry for the rest of the evening, and over 24 hours after the original start time, the race was called and Reutimann, who stayed out under caution to take the lead before the red flag, was declared the winner.

In all fairness to Reutimann -- a win is a win, regardless of how it's earned -- NASCAR was in a no-win situation. Regardless of what the sanctioning body did, someone was going home unhappy. Mother Nature is so fickle and unpredictable that such matters are often impossible to account for -- and with apologies to the fans, the weather is a risk you accept when you buy a ticket.

It happens when you're outdoors. You play outside long enough, sooner or later you're going to get rained on.

NASCAR made the right move in calling the race early enough on Sunday night that fans had time to leave the facility in an orderly and (somewhat) timely fashion. Even though Monday was a holiday, many fans couldn't return, either because they had to work on Monday or they had to travel so that they could return to their jobs on Tuesday.

I was among the latter, and while I'm upset that I didn't get to see the 50th running of this magnificent and historic event, I'm smart enough to realize NASCAR did everything it could to get the race in. Mother Nature just didn't cooperate, and as much as I would've liked to have stayed Monday to at least watch those 227 laps, my source of income takes precedence (partly because it helps pay for these races).

Lowe's Motor Speedway did offer the fans 10 percent off a ticket purchase for the October race at the track, which was a nice gesture. As a rule, tracks don't refund ticket prices for fans because of a rainout -- unless the rainout keeps the fans from coming, and they had ticket insurance (usually about $6 a ticket -- available on most track websites). It's no different, really, than when a baseball game gets rained out.

To the fans who missed the race, I offer this advice: when you buy your tickets, ask about ticket insurance. With ticket insurance, if you can't make a race for a legitimate reason (illness, travel problems, work obligations, etc.), the track will refund your entire ticket price. Otherwise, you're at the mercy of Mother Nature.

If she decides not to play nice, there's not really much you or NASCAR can do about it.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 (called after 227 of 400 laps)
1. David Reutimann*
2. Ryan Newman*
3. Robby Gordon
4. Carl Edwards
5. Brian Vickers*
6. Kyle Busch**
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Juan Pablo Montoya
9. Joey Logano*
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Denny Hamlin
12. Bobby Labonte
13. Jimmie Johnson*
14. Jeff Gordon
15. Bill Elliott
16. Sam Hornish Jr.
17. Mark Martin
18. Scott Speed
19. Tony Stewart
20. Greg Biffle
21. Jamie McMurray
22. David Stremme
23. Martin Truex Jr.
24. David Ragan
25. Jeff Burton
26. Marcos Ambrose
27. David Gilliland
28. Dave Blaney*
29. Paul Menard
30. Michael Waltrip*
31. Elliott Sadler
32. A.J. Allmendinger
33. Casey Mears
34. Kurt Busch
35. Reed Sorenson
36. Clint Bowyer
37. Joe Nemechek
38. Scott Riggs*
39. Tony Raines
40. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
41. Kevin Harvick
42. Max Papis
43. Mike Bliss

*led a lap (5 bonus points)
**led most laps (5 more bonus points)

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