Coca-Cola 600 scores another first

Staff WriterMay 25, 2009 

— Lowe's Motor Speedway has promoted this year's Coca-Cola 600 as "50 years of firsts."

The track got another "first" Sunday, when the 50th running of the race was postponed until noon today because of rain. The race will be televised by Fox. Gates open at 9 a.m.

Rain that fell intermittently for much of the day picked up in intensity around 6 p.m. Sunday, just a few minutes before the race's scheduled green flag.

It continued off and on for more than two hours before NASCAR and speedway president and general manager Marcus Smith made the decision to call off the race, which wouldn't have ended until after midnight under the most ideal of circumstances.

Getting the race in today might also be a challenge. The weather forecast calls for more of the same, with showers predicted for much of the afternoon.

Sunday was the first time in 600 history that weather had prevented at least some racing.

In 2003, the 600 ended after 276 of 400 laps because of rain, with Jimmie Johnson winning under checkered and yellow flags.

In 1997, the race was run in two segments after rain stopped it at Lap 195. After a 2-hour, 37-minute delay, it was restarted. At 12:45 a.m., NASCAR officials decided to end it after 20 additional laps. Jeff Gordon edged Rusty Wallace for the win.

Buddy Baker won the 1968 race, which was shortened to 382.5 laps because of rain. Baker followed the pace car for the final 36 laps.

The speedway's fall race in 1999 was postponed by rain until the next day. Gordon also won that one.

The change from a day-night race to a (presumably) day-only race will force teams into lots of adjustments.

"Everyone was set up for racing at night," said Kurt Busch, who will start 17th. "This will really have everyone scratching their heads, that's for sure. I know everyone will be really loose at the start of the race because all the rubber got washed off the track. It'll get tighter as the race goes on, and that's where the adjustability comes in."

But Busch acknowledged that the postponement affects more than just the racers.

"You've just got to feel for the fans," he said. "I'm sure a lot of them were counting on [today] for a travel day. The weather has put a kink in a lot of plans, but we shouldn't forget what this holiday is really all about. It's Memorial Day, and it's those brave men and women we need to keep in mind. When you think about the big picture, we all have it pretty good, don't we?"

dscott@charlotteobserver.com or 704-358-5889

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