House of Horrors? It has to seem that way for NASCAR, Fontana track
The Auto Club 500 is slated to resume Monday at 1 p.m. ET with Jimmie Johnson in the lead after 87 of 250 laps. No matter the outcome, there won't be any winners after a day -- and night -- that was a debacle for NASCAR and Auto Club Speedway, writes Terry Blount.
Updated: February 25, 2008, 3:45 AM ETBy Terry Blount | ESPN.com
FONTANA, Calif. -- And you thought the Academy Awards telecast was long. At least it came to a conclusion Sunday.
I just feel bad for the track. They have no luck whatsoever.The weather woes Sunday caused some logistical problems for the teams. The next Cup and Nationwide event is at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend. Although it's only 200 miles away, it's causing hardship now.Unless teams plan to use the same cars for Las Vegas, and most of them don't, the Vegas cars have to come on a second hauler from North Carolina.Some of the big teams -- such as Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing -- already brought the Las Vegas cars to Fontana on Saturday night. They will swap cars and take the Fontana cars back to North Carolina.But some of the Nationwide teams don't have that option. They have only one hauler. If the Nationwide race runs Monday, they can't go coast-to-coast and back in time for the Vegas event.Those teams would need to use the Fontana cars at Las Vegas, hoping they don't damage one in Monday's race.One bad decision after another Sunday resulted in a long, wasted day without any winners. No one gets the best actor award for Sunday's ugly epic."I just feel bad for the track," Jeff Burton said. "They have no luck whatsoever."Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Oscars night 50 miles away, the show that had no end and no winners was the Auto Club 500.NASCAR officially postponed the race at 2 a.m. ET (that's 11 p.m. local), five hours after this gallery-of-the-absurd was halted the final time Sunday at 87 laps for wet conditions.The event will continue Monday at 1 p.m. ET. Jimmie Johnson will restart the race in the lead.The rain had stopped for four hours Sunday, but NASCAR finally gave up on getting the track dry enough to continue in the wee hours of the night.No one was worthy of any trophies for this debacle, which was similar to a bad B movie that went straight to DVD.Paris Hilton's new flick had better direction. Hollywood should shoot its next horror movie at this place. Freddy Krueger and Jason must reside under the grandstands.Oh, this event had plenty of drama, most of which had nothing to do with actual racing on the track. We saw plenty of weeping. Not from the competitors but from the track itself.This one was No Country for Old Fools. Two red flags, more than seven hours of rain delays, track repairs for water seepage after the start, and a crash that left one car on its side and another on fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but there was plenty of pain. Try frustration, aggravation and desperation in mindlessly marching on in a fruitless effort to complete this bad three-act play at newly renamed Auto Club Speedway.You have to feel for track president Gillian Zucker and her staff. They can't catch a break. Nothing has gone right here from the time NASCAR awarded the facility a second Cup date in 2004.Even in a market of 15 million folks, filling all 90,000 seats doesn't happen. They sell the place as being in the shadow of Tinseltown, home of the stars. Hey, Cole Trickle was here Sunday. Not being up for any Oscars, Tom Cruise made a surprise appearance, watching the rain and rare racing moments from Jimmie Johnson's pit box. Scheduling a Cup race in Southern California on the same day as the biggest event of the year in L.A. doesn't seem like a brilliant marketing strategy. The beautiful people who grace the cover of the gossip magazines aren't in abundance at the Fontana track. It's the middle-class masses of the Inland Empire.Masses? Well, that's a stretch. When officials called it a night, maybe a couple of thousand were still around shivering, an unfortunate lot Mother Nature and NASCAR decided to torture."It's bloody freezing out here," Cup rookie Dario Franchitti said in his Scottish burr as he stood on pit road during the last rain delay. "It's California, and I'm freezing. I'm going to go find someplace warm to hang out."This weekend was constant rain and cold conditions. The Nationwide Series race was a victim of its second postponement, from Saturday to Sunday and on to Monday. Rain wasn't a problem for the Fontana Labor Day NASCAR weekend last season, but 115-degree heat made it miserable for anyone and anything other than a scorpion.A report earlier this week hinted that NASCAR might swap the fall Fontana race with the November event at Atlanta.If it happens, call it the mercy rule. Do something to give this track new life, starting with tearing it up and rebuilding the turns that squirt water through the seams.
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireCutting grooves in the Auto Club Speedway surface didn't help enough to get the race back on track Sunday.
-- Jeff Burton