Cup teams scrambling after washout
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- There's a first time for everything. NASCAR made it through 53 Daytona 500s without having to run the event on a Monday.
But the streak ends there.
Rain forced NASCAR to postpone the 54th running of the Daytona 500 until Monday at 7 p.m. ET.
"I just heard they've never had to do this before," Carl Edwards said of the first Daytona 500 postponement. "That's a pretty good record. But NASCAR did the right thing in not dragging this thing out."
The race was called a little after 5 p.m. ET, four hours after the scheduled start time. So many people, in the grandstands and watching at home, were hoping for better.
Some want to see how Danica Patrick does in her first 500. Some want to see whether Dale Earnhardt Jr. can end his losing streak. Some want to find out if the race will end in another big wreck. Some folks hope to see if Tony Stewart can finally win the biggest race.
Whatever you're hoping to see, you'll just have to wait, assuming you still can see it. A high number of employees may be calling in sick Monday.
And you may have to wait a little longer than you think. The forecast for Monday looks pretty iffy, as well.
A rainout always makes things difficult for the teams, but this is more than just an inconvenience. This is the Daytona 500, the top prize in the sport. Don't let down. Don't lose your focus.
Time to rethink the game plan. The track will change, so strategy must change.
"This is one of the toughest things for us drivers," Edwards said. "You plan on it and get all geared up, then you put it off for a day and it's now who can really stay focused. But not just for the drivers. It's the pit crews and the crew chiefs, as well."
Jason Ratcliff, crew chief for Joey Logano, said he'll have a long night of thinking about car setups after all the rain on the 2.5-mile oval.
"The track is going to be green," Ratcliff said. "It could change dramatically until we get some rubber back on the track. We may see something more like what we saw in the Shootout than the 150s [qualifying races]."
The racing was much wilder with huge multicar accidents in the Shootout last weekend.
"If guys look like they are really racy early, I think we'll drop back," Ratcliff said. "Some guys will be a little anxious. We'll try to stay clear of all that."
Edwards said the biggest concern is how the track changes will affect tire wear.
"The rain can make the track a little more abrasive," he said. "We've gotten the camber wrong before in this situation and had trouble. But I'm sure NASCAR will have a competition caution to look at the tires."
I just heard they've never had to do this before. That's a pretty good record. But NASCAR did the right thing in not dragging this thing out.” -- Carl Edwards on the Daytona 500 getting postponed for the first time in 54 years.
Ratcliff said the biggest problem for the teams is one fewer day (hopefully only one) before going across the country to Phoenix next weekend. The haulers have to return to Charlotte, N.C., drop off the Daytona cars and pick up the Phoenix cars before heading west.
"It's hardest on the truck drivers," Ratcliff said. "Fortunately, we're only eight hours up the road from home. Getting the truck back and getting that turned around will be difficult.
"As far as being prepared as a race team, we'll just have to start doing some of our race prep here at the track that we typically do at the shop."
But trying to win the Daytona 500 still takes priority over anything else. Bobby Labonte was so focused on racing Sunday that he never changed out of his firesuit.
"I didn't know when to eat or when to rest," Labonte said. "We have a ritual we go through, but not a whole lot we can do about it. You build up for a week to get here, but every driver that does this is ready to go."
Edwards said he was OK with waiting, except for one thing:
"The awning broke on my motor home because I left it out in the rain," he said. "I was trying to repair that thing all day."
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He is the author of "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2012 Daytona 500
The 54th running of the Daytona 500 is in the books. What started as a new season of hope for all ended its first chapter with one of the most memorable events in NASCAR history.