NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell took time to explain how the sanctioning body dealt with the Pocono weather situation.
The Pennsylvania 400 was postponed to Monday due to persistent rain and a large contingent of people thought it would even go to Tuesday.
Combating the weather
NASCAR worked to ensure that wouldn’t happen. Overnight, they cut into the track in over 30 places to allow water to drain out, commonly referred to as weepers.
The tentative start time of 11:07am was delayed an hour, but eventually, the race went green. As halfway rapidly approached, rain became an issue again, igniting a fierce battle between Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson for the race lead.
Moisture forced a yellow flag, but the race went green once again. But on Lap 133 of 160, another caution was called for visibility issues. Fog rolled in and blanketed the track. NASCAR ran behind the pace car for several laps before ultimately red-flagging it with 22 laps to go. Rookie Chris Buescher was leading the race.
“What we worked through was really unprecedented in terms of the fog you had rolling in,” explained O’Donnell. “The reason you kept cars out on the track under caution was to see if the fog was going to roll through, and if you red flagged the race and the fog had lifted, we’ve got a long delay to get back, and we didn’t have that many laps to go. So that’s why we kept cars out originally under caution.”
Track was never lost
Another question many fans hungry for an underdog upset were asking was, ‘what are we waiting for?’ It was a bizarre situation because NASCAR never actually lost the track. It was still raceable, but the issue was safety related with spotters unable to see their drivers.
“We never lost the track, so in this case, I think most NASCAR fans want to see a complete race. We’ve always stated that we will make every effort to get a complete race in, and in this case since we hadn’t lost the track, we wanted to wait.
“Unfortunately we had a lightning warning come in, and once the track had to evacuate the grandstands and we could get all the cars confiscated, we made the decision then to unplug it and announce that Chris had been declared the winner of the race.”