When the sky opened for a third time during the rain-rescheduled race at Daytona, and teams pulled out car covers to wait out the weather, it seemed the right time for NASCAR to put the Coke Zero 400 out of its misery.
The entire weekend was plagued by rain. Cars never got near the track for the scheduled Saturday start. When the race finally did begin Sunday — delayed, because of rain on the pace laps — it went a whopping six laps before the cars went back to pit road for another 25-minute delay.
Then, the on-track carnage: a 16-car crash seconds before a scheduled competition caution, and a 26-car crash before another shower. A total of six drivers managed to avoid accidents, leaving just 17 cars on the lead lap.
It would have been comedic if it wasn't such a disastrous day for one of the biggest events on the NASCAR schedule. So pulling the plug seemed like such a logical decision when the track was soaked through shortly before 3 p.m.
Drivers — especially those who were lined up behind winner Aric Almirola when the race was called with 48 laps remaining — thought otherwise.
And so did the fans.
Using social media to vent their frustration, fans blasted NASCAR for calling the race so early. Daytona International Speedway has lights, and many claimed they were willing to hang in there until they saw one driver take the checkered flag.
They were robbed of that right when NASCAR threw in the towel, they argued, and a race is not complete until someone crosses the finish line.
"I know a lot of the fans tuned into the TV and stuck around at the race track waiting to see a finish," said second-place finisher Brian Vickers. "I was expecting them to wait a little bit longer knowing that we have lights here and it was going to be a night race anyway."
Those fans have a point. But when posting from their living room with the race on the television, it doesn't really apply.
Weather has wreaked havoc on four events this season, including the water-logged Daytona 500, which needed a stoppage of more than six hours. Then came Bristol a month later, and that race needed two stoppages of more than five hours.
Both times, there were fans that stuck around for the finish. And both times, the television window was stretched, but NASCAR's partners worked with the series to keep the events on TV.
Texas in April was just like Daytona on Saturday. It rained hard all day, and the cars never got on the track. So NASCAR came back the next day, a Monday, and got the race completed under a sunny sky. Some fans stayed, some left, but the television audience was appeased.
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