HAMPTON, GA,None - With the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee bearing down on Georgia, NASCAR postponed its race at Atlanta Motor Speedway until Tuesday. Officials hoped to get the race in as scheduled Sunday night, but outer bands of the massive storm brought light rain to the track late in the afternoon.
Many of the pre-race festivities went on as scheduled, including driver introductions, the national anthem and a concert by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Blowers were sent out shortly after the scheduled 7:30 p.m. start time, and NASCAR thought there was about a three-hour window to get in at least a shortened race . Then, about two hours later and with the track nearly dry, another burst of rain drenched the track. It wasn't even on the radar.
"We were probably about 25 to 30 minutes from dropping the green flag," said Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway. "We don't know where it came from."
At that point, it would have taken another three hours to dry the track again - even if the rain held off - and the race wouldn't have started until after midnight.
"That's just not fair to the fans," Clark said. NASCAR won't even bother trying to get the race in Monday, considering a forecast that called for 4 to 5 inches of rain and high winds in the afternoon as what was left from the still potent storm moved through the Atlanta area.
"First and foremost, we had to consider the safety of the fans," Clark said. "We just thought it was best to step back, get reorganized and put on a great show Tuesday." If the weather cooperates, that is. The Tuesday forecast called for a 70 percent chance of rain.
Weather issues are nothing new at this 1.54-mile track, located about 30 miles south of Atlanta. A spring blizzard forced a 1993 race to be postponed for a week. Since 2000, three races have been bumped back to Monday, and another was shortened because of inclement weather.
The weather had been warm and sunny for the first two days of the weekend. A truck race was run Friday night, and the Nationwide Series was on the track Saturday night.
Then the tropical storm arrived, keeping the Sprint Cup teams in Atlanta for an extra two days. They will now have a very crowded scheduled heading into next Saturday's race at Richmond, the final event before the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Eight Chase drivers from last season, including five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, are scheduled to be at the White House on Wednesday to be honored by President Obama.
Existing tickets will be honored when the gates open at 8:30 a.m. The Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office will open at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, September 5 for fans still wishing to purchase tickets for the rescheduled race. Fans can also purchase tickets at the gate the day of the event.