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(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

The Frontstretch 5: Memorable Weather Events in NASCAR

Spring has sprung, and with it comes the atmospheric instability that has wreaked havoc on NASCAR’s schedule since the sport’s inception. Rain, snow, wind, thunderstorms and even fog have spawned delays and allowed for some surprising race winners over the years, all courtesy of Mother Nature.

1. The 2001 Winston All-Star Race

2001 was already a significant year, after Dale Earnhardt’s passing at the end of the Daytona 500. With thunderstorms surrounding Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, drivers were anxious to race. Rusty Wallace and Bobby Labonte led the field to green, but they couldn’t even get through the first corner without wrecking. The red flag came out due to the rain, and NASCAR allowed Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Michael Waltrip and Kevin Harvick to transfer to their backup cars (once they went through inspection).

The race was delayed for two hours and resumed without any further incidents. Jeremy Mayfield won the first 30-lap segment, and Tony Stewart won the second segment. Gordon finished fourth and second, respectively, in the first two segments.

He was able to pass Dale Jarrett and Ward Burton in the final 10-lap shootout to win the All-Star Race in his backup car, and earn the $2 million.

2. The 2006 Sharpie Mini 300

Wintry weather was on display on this late March weekend. The Xfinity Series encountered snow during the race, which caused a lengthy delay. Notable drivers in the 43-car field were Greg Biffle, Michael Waltrip, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and John Andretti.

It began snowing in the grandstands but didn’t land on the racetrack until laps 30-32, after Todd Kluever spun his car on the frontstretch and brought out the caution. NASCAR red-flagged the race, and wouldn’t resume for an hour and 19 minutes.

Crew members and fans in the grandstands threw snowballs at each other, while drivers like Michael Waltrip shielded themselves with an umbrella from the cold ammo.

Kyle Busch became the winner of this “snowball derby.” His brother Kurt Busch would win the next day and made a snow angel on the start/finish line after the race.

3. The 2009 Coca Cola 600

The longest race of the season became longer (in time) because of inclement weather. This was the first instance where the Coca Cola 600 was run on Memorial Day, thanks to Mother Nature causing a postponement. Mike Joy described the weather as “a sheet of rain [marching] its way down the backstretch like a car wash.”

Sprinkles brought out the red flag a few times throughout the race (lap 74 and 177). At one point (lap 163) the race was halted to honor those in service.

Toward the end of the race, David Reutimann’s Michael Waltrip Racing team chose to gamble and stay out on the track (along with Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon) while under caution for rain again. Reutimann led five laps under caution before the third and final red flag for rain flew, and he was declared the winner a few hours later.

4. The 2016 Kobalt 400

There was very strange weather at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 26, as high winds gusting up to 50mph caused an odd occurrence in the desert.

Drivers were already aware of the windy forecast, with wind advisories in effect for Sunday’s race. However, after the caution came out for Kyle Larson spinning with 69 to go, a dust storm near the track delayed the restart:

The green flag waved with 64 laps left in the race, and Brad Keselowski would go on to win. Joey Logano referred to the event as the “Wild, Wild West.”

5. The 2016 Pennsylvania 400

2016 certainly saw some odd weather affecting NASCAR events, and the Pocono race on August 1 was one of them. This race, which was postponed to Monday due to rain, allowed for another surprise winner.

Chris Buescher (driving the No. 22 car for Front Row Motorsports) had been having an eventful day already, having gone a lap down after a pit road speeding penalty. He would make two more green stops and earned his lap back on lap 108 when the caution flag flew for a crash involving Chase Elliott and Joey Logano.

Buescher stayed out while the leaders pitted during the next set of stops … then it got weird.

Fog rolled into turn two on lap 132. The spotters weren’t able to see through the fog and the race ended on lap 138, with Buescher as the winner.

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    Look up the 1999 TranSouth Financial 400 at Darlington.