LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Pocono CEO Brandon Igdalsky took refuge from the rain inside a garage stall that was being used as the site of the drivers meeting.
His message Sunday morning to Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and the rest of the field: “I love you guys. But I don’t want to see you tomorrow.”
Well, tough luck.
Call it, Pocono Rainway.
Rain washed out the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway and the 400-mile race will now run at 11 a.m. Monday. Martin Truex Jr. is on the pole and Kurt Busch tries to sweep Pocono in the track’s second Monday race of the season.
The June Pocono race also was delayed a day. NASCAR said this was the first time a track had two rain-postponed races in the same season.
This was NASCAR’s 10th postponed race since 2011. The 2012 rain-shortened race at Pocono was marred by lightning strikes that killed one fan and injured nine others.
Monday’s forecast seems cloudier than Kasey Kahne’s chances to make the Chase. But NASCAR set the time an hour earlier than the green flag start on that June Monday to try to beat some of the rain and reach at least the halfway point for an official race.
“I feel bad for the fans more than anybody,” Igdalsky said. “We were going to have an unbelievable crowd here today.”
The track-drying Air Titans provided the only action at Pocono and, after morning rain had passed, there were clear skies at the scheduled 1:30 p.m. start. But about 90 minutes later, it started pouring at the track and the race was quickly called off.
Kahne went on TV and bemoaned that he would have to delay a vacation to the Bahamas.
Pocono had more pressing problems.
While NASCAR tracks don’t release attendance numbers, Igdalsky said Pocono was on pace for its biggest crowd in years. The track’s infield and camping areas were sold out, along with some of the higher-priced suites. And Monday races are a burden for everyone involved in NASCAR.
“A lot of our staff are volunteers and they’ve got jobs tomorrow they’ve got to get back to,” he said. “They’ve taken off Friday already. It definitely hits you in the purse strings. The possibility of two in one season, that’s painful.”
Igdalsky said there was a Jeff Gordon bump in ticket sales when the retired four-time champion came back to drive for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. Igdalsky said it was hard to put an exact number on the number of additional tickets sold because of Gordon’s return because it coincided with the track’s usual final-weeks ticket sales push.
“For us, it was the perfect storm,” Igdalsky said.
Unfortunately for the track, the wrong kind hit Sunday.
Kevin Harvick’s 4-year-old son, Keelan, splashed around in a puddle. Some drivers took their dogs for a walk. Crew members stretched out on pit road and gazed at darkened clouds that hinted of the rain ahead.
Even more Monday races rain loom at a track without lights such as Pocono in 2017 and beyond. NASCAR bumped start times at most tracks from the 1:30 p.m. window to around 3 p.m. or later next season, meaning one rain delay could lose a track for the day.
Igdalsky lobbied NASCAR to keep his traditional and more fan-friendly start time.
“For us, 1 is a better time,” he said. “I understand the thought process behind it and I’m going to support it.”
There are six races left until the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship driver field is set. Led by four-time winners Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, there are 11 slots seemingly set for race winners. Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson are the four winless drivers perilously holding on to the final five spots.
NOTES: Sunday would have been Justin Wilson’s 38th birthday. The IndyCar driver was killed last August from injuries suffered in the race at Pocono. Igdalsky said the track was working with IndyCar for an appropriate tribute to the driver when the series returns on Aug. 21.
IndyCar is back for the fourth straight season and Igdalsky refused to say if the series would return in 2017.
“Maybe,” he said, laughing.