There’s plenty of drama going on in the world of NASCAR right now, and honestly, I’m here for it.
The recent rain threat this past weekend at the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, which ultimately led officials to postpone the Sunday afternoon race to the following Monday, has 15-time most popular driver winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. pissed about how it was handled.
It was a historic race, with Bubba Wallace joining Wendell Scott as only the second black driver to take home a Cup Series victory, breaking a nearly 58-year winless streak for black drivers.
Of course, it also came on the heels of the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol, which was the first round of NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and had some fireworks between Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick at the end.
But unfortunately, much of that was overshadowed by the fact that, after going through all the prerace ceremonies and drivers doing a few pace laps, NASCAR decided to postpone the race one day because of the looming rain threat.
Dale Jr. was up in the NBC broadcast booth to call the race, and on the Dale Jr. Download this week, he talked about how upsetting it was to watch the nearly-packed grandstands dissipate as fans existed the track that afternoon:
“The race is on NBC, the big network on Sunday. Massive audience watching our race. We had the grandstands packed full of people. Slammed.
The place was insane. Campers were everywhere. It was a great crowd. And NASCAR called the race on Sunday. I was livid. You’re standing in that booth. It’s not raining.”
And seeing as how he won there six times in the Cup Series, I think it’s safe to say he knows what he’s talking about. Knowing that so many people turned out to watch it in-person, which has been a huge issue in racing over the past several years, makes it all the more frustrating.
Well, that, and the fact that it wasn’t even raining yet:
“Evidently the idea is if they can’t finish the entire race, can’t guarantee a ticket buyer sitting in the grandstands, if they can’t guarantee them that they can finish the race in its entirety, they cannot start it.
And that’s so frustrating because everyone in the grandstands, they don’t know that. That was so frustrating to have to watch all of those people right below us in the booth, and we’re looking right down at the grandstands.
80 percent of the crowd left and didn’t come back for the next day.”
He also suggested a pretty simple solution to avoid this exact situation happening again. All you have to do, essentially, is change some of the fine print. Instead of guaranteeing a ticket buyer that they will run the entire race, you just guarantee that they’ll go beyond the halfway point.
I think we can all agree that the constant rain delays and rescheduling of races is extremely annoying a lot of the time. I mean, yes, sometimes it’s completely necessary to postpone a race, but sometimes, it’s not:
“If it gets dark, too dark, and we’re not halfway, we’re going to start them again in the morning and finish this race.
If it’s beyond halfway, and it’s too dark, we’ll declare a winner, just like we did in the Xfinity race for Brandon Brown.”
Which brings up another issue in whether or not Talladega should have lights installed around the track that would allow them to hold races after it gets dark out. Personally, I think it would be incredibly cool to have a night race there if they can make it work safely.
Ultimately, though, Jr. is concerned with the people in the grandstands (and rightfully so), and earning back their love for live stock car racing:
“I don’t know how well you would be able to see even with the track lit from a grandstands seat. This place is 2.5 miles. It’s bigger footprint-wise than Daytona. I don’t know if I had a grandstands ticket that I would visually be able to see the action as well as I can during afternoon.
The only person that matters right now in this whole conversation is the guy that’s buying the ticket. Not the person tuning in. Not the industry. Not the drivers, unfortunately. I know they want to matter. The guy in the camper. The guy on top of the camper.
The guy in the grandstands seat, we’ve got to take care of first. Then everything else falls in behind.”
I could not agree with him more. I think it’s at least worth looking into in terms of potentially adding lights at Talladega. Like Dale Jr. mentioned, it might still be hard to see the other end of that massive track at night even with lights, but I don’t see why they couldn’t at least consider it.
I mean, the track they’re racing at this weekend, Charlotte Motor Speedway, hosts a night race under the lights every year in the Coca-Cola 600. Granted, that track is only 1.5 miles in length, which is half the size as Talladega. But still, it can be done.
I’m not saying that adding lights would be the end-all-be-all solution (if it was, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation right now), but I do think it’s worth looking into.
Dale Jr. opened the most recent episode of his podcast talking about all of this, and he was joined by former racer-turned soldier Lyndon Amick for a pretty incredible conversation, too:
NEW EPISODE – Lyndon Amick: Freedom on the Other Side
🔀Racer to Soldier 💥Combat Crossfire 💔Broken Marriage 💭Afghanistan Perspective 🤦♂️Play-by-play Flubs 🎈Balloons & Buffalos