LONG POND - Coming soon to Pocono Raceway: ark racing.
Not ARCA series racing, ark racing.
Following drenching morning rains, yesterday's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 was postponed until noon today.
When the race was officially postponed at 4:15 p.m. yesterday, there was a strange sight: The sun was shining, the track was dry and fans were leaving. The problem was seepage in several areas of the track; officials were unable to stop water flow from under the track.
Before thousands of patient fans, the drivers were introduced on schedule for the 2 p.m. start.
"The rain shower just before 4 p.m. set us back," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. "Our biggest challenge was the clock. It's [usually] a 4-hour race. We're confident that by noon [today], should the weather cooperate, we'll be ready to go."
Grandstand gates open at 9 a.m today. Ticket stubs from yesterday will be honored.
It's only the third time in 35 years of NASCAR racing at Pocono that a race has been postponed.
Whenever the race starts, Tony Stewart will be at the back of the field. Since qualifying was rained out on Friday, Stewart, as the points leader, was to be the polesitter. However, he spun his No. 14 Chevrolet during practice on Saturday and must start a backup car.
Stewart made a similar error in practice prior to the June race at Pocono. Despite his distant start he won the race. Don't count him out today.
While the delay was annoying, Pat Tryson, crew chief for Kurt Busch, said the rain doesn't affect race preparation too much.
"You've pretty much decided what you're going to do," Tryson said. "You just have to wait for the race to start and see how much change you need."
Busch, fourth in the Sprint Cup standings, was eighth fastest in Saturday's final practice.
"We're OK; I'd like to be better," said Tryson, from Malvern. "The Hendrick cars are pretty fast right now. We're all trying to catch up."
Three Hendrick Motorsports drivers are in the top nine in points: Three-time reigning champion Jimmie Johnson is second, Jeff Gordon is third and Mark Martin is ninth.
Stewart and Ryan Newman, his teammate who is seventh in points, receive their engines and chassis from Hendrick.
Back in the 1990s, Dr. Joseph Mattioli, the chairman of Pocono Raceway, decided he didn't need title sponsors for the track's two NASCAR races each year. Mattioli branded the June race the Pocono 500 and the summer race the Pennsylvania 500.
Last year, the summer event became the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. Track president Brandon Igdalsky, Mattioli's grandson, said yesterday he didn't have to twist his grandfather's arm to affiliate Sunoco and Red Cross with the Pennsylvania 500.
"I knew he had a soft spot with the charitable stuff," Igdalsky said. "His big thing has been to give back. This was an easy one. When we explained the concept, he said, 'Heck, yeah.' "
Sunoco and Red Cross are not the traditional title sponsors who pay about $2 million per race to tracks. Tom Foley, CEO of the Red Cross' southeastern Pennsylvania chapter based in Philadelphia, said Sunoco makes a significant contribution to the Mattioli Foundation, which then donates the money to the Red Cross chapter. Sunoco, also Philadelphia based, is the official fuel of NASCAR.
Igdalsky and Foley said they are hopeful that the Pocono/Red Cross/Sunoco relationship will continue after this year.
Today's scheduled appearance of Jimmie Johnson and other drivers at the White House has been postponed. Other invitees were last year's drivers in the Chase; Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya, who are in this year's top 12 in points; and former champions Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Bobby and Terry Labonte.