NASCAR survives daunting Darlington weather forecast

While it was a rain-shortened race, NASCAR was able to survive a daunting weather forecast to get Wednesday’s Cup Series race in as scheduled.

After Sunday’s The Real Heroes 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway went off without a hitch for the first live action in 10 weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic, the schedule for the remainder of the week did not look very promising as far as the weather was concerned.

The Toyota 200 Xfinity Series race was scheduled to take place on Tuesday evening at the four-turn, 1.366-mile (2.198-kilometer) egg-shaped oval in Darlington, South Carolina beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET.

To combat the threat of rain and thunderstorms, NASCAR moved up the start time of the race to 6:00 p.m. ET. But that didn’t change anything, as rain had already soaked the track and was continuing to fall, forcing NASCAR to make the inevitable decision to push off the 147-lap race to this afternoon.

There was a similar forecast for yesterday night’s Cup Series race at the track. There was a 100% chance of rain and thunderstorms during the day and a 90% chance during the evening. When Fox Sports 1’s life broadcast of the race began, the rain was falling and it was announced that the start of the race had been delayed indefinitely.

The race was initially scheduled to get underway at 7:30 p.m. ET before NASCAR moved up the start time to 6:00 p.m. ET as a result of the threatening forecast.

With the rest of the week’s forecast not looking too promising and NASCAR scheduled to make the quick trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a stretch of four consecutive days of racing beginning this Sunday, things were not looking good.

Add in the fact that NASCAR’s return to racing schedule features hardly any breaks over the next few weeks, and it was clear that having to reschedule another race could have put NASCAR in a bind.

But then a new window emerged, albeit a small one, that showed the radar was clear, and as long as NASCAR could get in half (114) of the scheduled 228 laps, the race would be considered official and the results would be confirmed.

NASCAR was able to get the action underway shortly after 8:00 p.m. ET.

Indeed, the rain came during the race. But surprisingly, it almost held off to the very end. NASCAR was able to run 208 laps of the race before throwing the red flag and declaring Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin the winner, and with fewer than the 11 caution flag periods it featured, the entire race may have been able to be completed.

Of course, NASCAR still needs to get in today’s Xfinity Series before they are completely in the clear to move on to Charlotte, and the initial plan was to be done at “The Lady in Black” for the week by now. So they are still dealing with a slight delay, which may or may not be extended depending on today’s weather.

But given what many thought the chances were of yesterday’s race taking place, not having two races to worry about fitting in before the busy weekend is a huge plus.

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Fox Sports 1 is set to broadcast the Toyota 200 Xfinity Series race live from Darlington Raceway beginning at 12:00 p.m. ET this afternoon. Within the next week, Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host two Cup Series races, one on Sunday, May 24 and the other on Wednesday, May 27, as well one Xfinity Series race on Monday, May 25 and one Truck Series race on Tuesday, May 26.

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