CONCORD, N.C. — Forget building an engine. On Sunday, the race teams at Charlotte Motor Speedway would have been better served building an ark.
The Coca-Cola 600 was ultimately postponed until Monday afternoon, when it’s supposed to start at 3 p.m., weather permitting.
The weather certainly didn’t permit it Sunday, on a day so rainy that the speedway could have handed out snorkels. Supposed to start at 6 p.m. Sunday, the race was instead postponed at 6:30 p.m.
The only racing we saw Sunday was the Indy 500, telecast on the big screen inside the CMS infield. The Coca-Cola 600 — already NASCAR’s longest Cup race — will now make everyone wait a little longer. The Xfinity Series race will be the undercard Monday, starting at 11 a.m. Gates open at Charlotte Motor Speedway at 9 a.m. Monday.
Fans with tickets to the original races this weekend will also have those tickets honored Monday. The Cup race will be telecast on FOX and the Xfinity Series race on FS1.
On Sunday, race fans huddled under their tents or in their cars or, if they braved the weather to walk around, wore hoodies and jeans and carried umbrellas. It felt like a cool and wet day in late November, with the temperature hovering around 58 degrees.
The Doobie Brothers were supposed to play an outdoor pre-race concert. But that old black water, it kept on rollin’. So that concert was also canceled due to safety concerns. And anyone who thought we were going racing after that — have you ever heard the song “What a Fool Believes”? (OK, I’ll stop).
Concord Mills, the nearby shopping mall, had the advantage of being enclosed and was packed to the gills Sunday afternoon as race fans sought a diversion from watching the rain fall.
The weather was an unlucky break for both fans — scrambling to decide whether they could stick around an extra day on the Memorial Day weekend to use their tickets — and for the speedway itself.
It’s always vastly preferable to run a race when you plan to, both in terms of TV audience and various forms of revenue. But Mother Nature really doesn’t care about NASCAR’s schedule, as she has proven a number of times over the years. Monday will now be a busy doubleheader, and the stands won’t be as full.
About that Indy race that was the only racing anyone saw at the speedway: It had a very scary moment, reminiscent of something that happened at an Indy race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1999. At that sad race, three spectators were killed when a tire came off of one Indy car and was punted by another into the stands. The rest of the race was canceled. It was one of the darkest days in race history in Charlotte.
At the 2023 Indy 500 on Sunday, a tire somehow got free of its wheel tether and flew over the catch fence. However, in this case, it only hit a parked car, and reports indicated no one was injured.
Still, there were a few minutes of unsettling deja vu for myself and anyone else who remembers the open-wheel race in Charlotte in 1999.
Nothing like that happened at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, of course. In fact, nothing much at all happened, other than a lot of looking at the sky and muttering. Some people wished that CMS officials had postponed the race earlier. Some people wished they had waited longer. Everyone wished that the sun had simply shone and the race, which was going to have a sellout crowd packing the grandstands, had gone off as scheduled.
That’s not what Mother Nature intended, though, and that’s not what she did. Sunday was a washout. Let’s hope Monday is better.