Rain postpones Atlanta Cup race
HAMPTON, Ga. -- The AdvoCare 500 has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET due to intermittent rain on Sunday evening and a forecast for continuous rain with severe thunderstorms throughout Monday.
The race will be telecast live on ESPN.
NASCAR normally tries to reschedule rainouts for the next day, but this time the forecast is so hopeless for Monday in the Atlanta area that NASCAR decided not to even try.
"There's a 100 percent chance [of rain on Monday] and there are severe thunderstorms in the area," NASCAR spokeswoman Kristi King said. "In an effort continue to look out for the safety and well-being of our fans and competitors ... we want to make sure we don't put anybody in harm's way. So, Tuesday at 11."
Actually there is no real promise of a clear day until Thursday. After Monday, there's a 60 percent chance of rain on Tuesday and even a 30 percent chance on Wednesday.
"This is one of those deals where nobody wins," said NASCAR president Mike Helton, "but unfortunately it happens from time to time."
Realistically, considering the likelihood of rain through Tuesday morning, there's a strong possibility NASCAR could begin trying for a start at midday, with the capability of running the race late into Tuesday evening and even the wee hours of Wednesday.
Many of the prerace festivities went on as scheduled, including driver introductions, the national anthem and a concert by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Blowers were sent out shortly after the scheduled 7:30 p.m. start time, and NASCAR thought there was about a three-hour window to get in at least a shortened race. Then, with the track nearly dry, a short but heavy dose of rain moved in about 9:30 p.m.
It didn't even show up on the radar.
"We were probably about 25 to 30 minutes from dropping the green flag," said Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway. "We don't know where it came from."
At that point, it would have taken another three hours to dry the track again -- even if the rain held off -- and the race wouldn't have started until after midnight.
"That's just not fair to the fans," Clark said.
NASCAR won't even bother trying to get the race in Monday, considering a forecast that called for 4 to 5 inches of rain and potentially high winds in the afternoon as what was left from the still potent storm moved through the Atlanta area, having dumped more than a foot of rain on the Gulf Coast.
"First and foremost, we had to consider the safety of the fans," Clark said. "We just thought it was best to step back, get reorganized and put on a great show Tuesday."
If the weather cooperates, that is.
The Tuesday forecast called for a 70 percent chance of rain.
Weather issues are nothing new at this 1.54-mile track, located about 30 miles south of Atlanta. A spring blizzard forced a 1993 race to be postponed for a week. Since 2000, three races have been bumped back to Monday, and another was shortened because of inclement weather.
The weather had been warm and sunny for the first two days of the weekend. A truck race was run Friday night, and the Nationwide Series was on the track Saturday night.
Then the tropical storm arrived, keeping the Sprint Cup teams in Atlanta for an extra two days. They will now have a very crowded schedule heading into next Saturday's race at Richmond, the final event before the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Eight Chase drivers from last season, including five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, are scheduled to be at the White House on Wednesday to be honored by President Obama.
"Hopefully everything goes OK Tuesday, and we'll just be a couple days behind," Helton said. "We'll catch up pretty quick."
NASCAR never considered moving the race to an earlier time, even though it's known for days that inclement weather was likely Sunday night because of the tropical storm. The governing body said it's never moved up a starting time, citing television commitments and consideration for fans who travel long distances to attend races.
Helton said there might be a change in the rules to let teams make minor adjustments on the car, which normally isn't allowed after qualifying. Moving to Tuesday means there will be a three-day gap between time trials and the race, plus it will be held during the day instead of the evening, when track temperatures are cooler.
"They have to determine the fact that they've set for a good period of time, not just overnight," Helton said. "They have to take into consideration the climate changes, including daylight to dark and what weather comes through here and decide what may be able to be done."
Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.