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(Photo: Phil Allaway)

Friday Faceoff: How Late Is Too Late to Finish a Race?

Ryan Newman moved into a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff spot based on his finish last week, bumping Jimmie Johnson. Who is more likely to make the postseason?

Frank Velat: Neither deserves to be in at this point, but that’s a whole other story. Ryan Newman has the immeasurable advantage known as momentum. He’s trending in the right direction at the right time. One never knows how long such a streak will last, but if there’s ever a good time to be on an upward trajectory, late summer is it. Jimmie Johnson has been so hit or miss that Newman might get the spot.

Joy Tomlinson: It will be pretty close, but if Newman can keep up the strong runs, he should make it over Johnson. Both Johnson and Clint Bowyer have had some terrible luck this year, so Newman could probably capitalize on their misfortune. Both he and Johnson have had some success and victories at some of the upcoming tracks, so it will be interesting to see if Johnson can break his losing streak. Johnson would need to start finishing ahead of Newman to get into the playoffs, but it’s looking like Newman would be in instead. Neither driver would win the championship anyway, but at least they could say they had a shot.

Amy Henderson: If Johnson can get over his current streak of bad luck, he’s got the edge as a driver and in equipment over Newman, but he has to end the funk this week, or it’s not going to happen.

The IndyCar race from Iowa Speedway ended after 2 a.m. E.T. due to a weather delay. Should every race run in its entirety regardless of what time it ends?

Henderson: Yes, but at some point, they need to pack things up until the next morning and finish it then, and there definitely needs to be a hard out as far as when they start. No race should be started after maybe 9 p.m. ET max, because that’s a midnight end at the earliest, and then fans have to drive home.  That’s begging for an accident to mar what should have been a fun weekend for someone.  If there’s more than a certain percentage of total mileage left, races should be finished the next day.  The summer Daytona International Speedway race is a good example. 30 laps at Daytona is 75 miles — that’s a lot of racing (and had that race concluded, incidentally, I don’t think we’d be talking about the first question, because either Johnson or Newman would have the win) that could have wrapped up early the next morning. I do realize that some fans would not be able to stay, but the majority would rather read about a good finish than see a race end in the rain. Had there been less than 40 miles or so left, ending it would have been more palatable. But whatever the call, it needs to be consistent, though; you can’t call one race at 5 p.m. in the afternoon and then start one at 10 p.m. the next time.

Velat: People have to understand what goes into these decisions. Officials have to consider the best interest of spectators, TV audiences, competition and television partners. The problem is that there is no solution that fits everyone’s needs. I have a hard time believing that ending a race at 2 a.m. suits anyone’s needs, however. Holding a large portion of the TV audience to that point is a challenge, spectators are forced to make long drives (in some cases) after being at the track for many hours, and by the time some competitors leave the speedway, they aren’t far removed from where they would’ve been had the race been postponed.

Tomlinson: Every race should be run in its entirety, with some exceptions. If the weather makes it seem better to run at a more convenient time for drivers, fans and networks, they should try to change the time to that day. If the race is already started, then it should be continued after the weather lets up and the track is dry. I like the rules the sanctioning bodies have in place regarding the weather and postponement, but I wish they would consider waiting as long as possible to try to finish. Of course, if rain comes with 10 laps left, I wouldn’t mind them just calling it official. IndyCar was on pretty late Saturday night, and I wondered why they didn’t air it Sunday morning.

Harrison Burton was not happy with Paul Menard after the Xfinity Series race last Saturday. Was Menard getting even or just taking a cheap shot?

Henderson: Paul Menard was overreacting. Harrison Burton is a kid; he’s learning how to race with more experienced drivers.  Menard is a veteran (and a veteran in a higher series at that), and he should have cut Burton a little slack. Everyone has to learn how and when to race hard somewhere. If the Cup drivers don’t want to be raced hard by youngsters in Xfinity or the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, they should stick to the Cup Series.

Tomlinson: Menard raced Burton how he thought Burton raced him. If Menard had bumped Burton square on a straightaway instead of entry into the turn, I might have understood his reasoning. The way Menard bumped Burton made me feel it was more like a cheap shot. Also, in one of the camera angles prior to that incident, where Menard said Burton hit him, it looked to me like Menard came down on Burton’s right side. Considering how Menard may not encounter Burton on the track in the near future, he should’ve raced Burton more cleanly.

Velat: Menard didn’t take too kindly to being bumped by the up-and-coming kid last Saturday but there really is a simple solution: stick to racing on Sunday. Menard had no business being in the race anyway. You can’t go swim in the kiddie pool and then complain that they splash you too much.

The last seven Cup races have been won by seven different drivers. If the streak continues at Pocono Raceway, which driver will be the winner?

Tomlinson: Daniel Suarez. He’s only been at Pocono five times so far but has three top 10s and finished second to Kyle Busch in this race last year after starting on the pole. Also, he led 52 laps two weeks ago at Kentucky Speedway and has two top fives and seven top 10s this year. Stewart-Haas Racing is heating up, and Suarez and his crew chief could create the right strategy to win this race.

Velat: Ryan Blaney. Blaney scored his first win at Pocono and is another driver who seems to be closer to the front each week. I’d look for the No. 12 to be at the front of the field when the checkered flag waves.

Henderson: Erik Jones. Not only is Joe Gibbs Racing the top Cup team right now, but Jones also has excellent numbers at Pocono: three top fives and four top 10s in five races with a 9.6 average finish on a track that’s not easy. Plus, Jones is hovering near the playoff cut line, so he has extra incentive to win. I expect him to be a contender.

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About Frank Velat

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Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.

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7 comments

  1. Avatar

    If it comes to who makes the postseason Johnson or Newman I’d say Johnson better be well ahead of Newman that final race to advance. Just ask Larson about “Bonsai Newman”.

  2. Avatar

    I agree that Menard took a cheap shot. If he really wanted to ‘teach’ Burton s
    something, shouldn’t it have been how to move someone up the track without wrecking them for the pass? I think you’re right…he should stick to the Cup series where wrecking the other back markers won’t be such a big deal.

  3. Avatar

    Menard: back marker no talent hack who has the good fortune of being the son of a gazillionare. Shouldn’t he be learning how to take over the family business? Or is he gonna follow the BZF model?

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      I think the current rules for when a race is official are fine when weather is an issue. Having to stay until Monday is a major pain for everyone and it’s not like the world depends on that race running every lap. I disagree with Amy, if I were a fan either watching on TV or the track and the race was over halfway, I’d prefer they call it rather than wait until Monday when I can’t be there or in front of the TV. To spend that effort and time (even sitting in front of the TV) and not get closure sucks. I don’t want to read about a finish that I couldn’t be there to see.

      I agree that 9PM local time should be the latest a race is started (note that a west coast race could start at midnight eastern time with that rule).

      They definitely should try to be consistent with when and how long the wait to call a race but that is easier said than done. One variable, how probable is more rain after the initial downpour, is a very subjective/uncertain factor which makes it impossible to have a cement rule.

      EFF Menard! Any cup guy that runs in a lower division should be held to a higher standard and be penalized if they start to bully the children. I don’t care if it’s Paul Menard or Kyle Busch, I don’t like to see cup guys act like they are entitled in a lower series (where they shouldn’t be running anyway). And I was finally starting to get a small amount of respect for Menard even though I have long felt like Mike; “back marker no talent hack who has the good fortune of being the son of a gazillionare.”

      • Avatar

        If you’re on the east coast, 9 PM is 6 PM on the west coast.

        • Avatar

          Yeah, but if the race is on the west coast the race could start at 9PM local time which would be midnight on the east coast. The point being, the 9PM rule is local track time not 9PM EST. Which would still kind of suck for we east coast fans but that’s the way the ball bounces,.

  4. Avatar

    Suarez isn’t going to win anything, what’s the matter with you !!!