Special to Tribune Newspapers
September 19, 2011
NASCAR drivers never got the chance to finally start their engines Sunday.
On-and-off rain caused a delay of more than six hours before a final burst dashed plans to run the Chase for the Sprint Cup kickoff at Chicagoland Speedway under the lights.
Weather permitting, the race will now start at noon today and will be televised on ESPN. Details on admission for Sunday's ticket holders had yet to be announced as of press time.
While frustrated, pole-sitter Matt Kenseth shrugged off the postponement.
"We are pretty well set," he said. "The car is on the line. A delay is no big deal. We might look at the temperature and readjust our tape or something like that, something little. We will just go on and plan like we had planned."
Persistent light rain fell from late morning into midafternoon, but NASCAR officials gambled that waiting out the precipitation would pay off.
A break came around 3:45 p.m., and Chicagoland Speedway crews jumped into action.
For the second time of the day, crews in five pickup trucks with hot-air blowers methodically circled the 1.5-mile tri-oval for nearly two hours to ensure a dry track and make it safe for racing.
But rain resumed around 6 p.m., just as crews apparently had the track in driving condition. And while radar showed a relatively small band over the Joliet area, it was still raining at 7 p.m.
"The rain presents an issue that nobody has much control over," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. "It's uncomfortable but we appreciate everybody tolerating and hanging this there with us."
Drivers had been introduced about 12:45p.m. for the scheduled 1 p.m. start, but as rain persisted they went for shelter and normally busy garage and pit areas eventually became deserted.
A postponement was an all-around disappointment, particularly for fans who waited out delays all afternoon as well as Chicagoland officials who eyed a potential full house for the track's first Chase for the Sprint Cup outing.
It was also an inconvenience for drivers and crews who will lose a day moving on to next Sunday's second race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Today's forecast calls for showers into the early afternoon, with clearing skies after that.
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