NASCAR at Phoenix: Should the race have been finished?

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The final race of the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup by no means played out as planned. Of course, what race ever goes according to plan in NASCAR, but this one wasn’t thrown asunder by a driver, team, or even the track, but by Mother Nature. Rain would shorten the Quicken Loans 500 at Phoenix on Sunday night, after waiting out a six-hour rain delay earlier in the day.

Now, only one overriding question remains following NASCAR at Phoenix – should the race have been finished?

To NASCAR’s defense, they accomplished everything by the book on Sunday. They waited out the rain during the afternoon, found an opening in the rain where they felt they could get most, if not all, of the race in, and dried the track so that drivers could compete for the Championship Four spots in the Chase. Per the NASCAR rulebook, the race is official at halfway, and of course the Quicken Loans 500 made it past halfway, so what possible reason could there be for controversy?

Ultimately, the controversy surrounds the concluding of an elimination race in the “playoffs” before it has fully run its course. Certainly the drivers who were eliminated on Sunday at Phoenix would have wanted to run all the laps and try and shuffle up who would contend for the title at Homestead, but that is not the point here. Every one of the eight drivers had an equal chance on Sunday to put themselves into the final round, and therefore it left the four on the outside very little room to criticize the finish to the race.

The same cannot be said, however, for the fans. Following the sudden and unfortunate ending to the race, many fans (and even media members) took to social media to express their displeasure with the ending. Some even made comparisons to other sports, where even in spite of the weather the entire game was completed, including the World Series. Furthermore, others remembered back to Daytona in July or Bristol in the spring where NASCAR did everything in their power to complete the full distance, even if it meant racing until early in the morning.

It is clear from the discussion on social media, comparisons to other sports, and the level of importance and dedication to the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs that a new solution needs to be considered. Following the regrettable ending, it would be smart of NASCAR to amend their rule on weather impacts to the following:

“Any regular season race shall be deemed official following halfway through the scheduled distance. Should the race be stopped for weather or other circumstances, it can be ended at this point.

For all Chase for the Sprint Cup races, the race shall be deemed official following the completion of the race. Should there be extenuating circumstances that prevent the race from being fully completed, these shall be taken on a case-by-case basis. Regardless, every effort will be made to complete the full distance.”

This type of change to the rules would allow NASCAR the latitude to end the race early if absolutely necessary in the Chase, but also guarantee the fans that they will get the most out of the playoffs.

No matter what NASCAR attempts to change or how they respond to the issue of the finish on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, the biggest losers in that debacle were the fans. In a Chase that has been filled with controversy, from both drivers and the organizers, a solution is needed to what could have been an easy fix on Sunday night.

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