NASCAR needs to do better when it comes to officiating races in the rain.
That was the sentiment from senior official Scott Miller when asked about everything that transpired on Sunday in the debut Cup Series event at Circuit at the Americas — which was also the first race to take place entirely under rainy conditions.
The Texas Grand Prix was called 14 laps short of the scheduled distance, with Chase Elliott being declared the winner, due to deteriorating conditions that led to a pair of frightening crashes due to poor visibility.
One crash involved Kevin Harvick, who said driving in a deluge was the most dangerous thing he has ever done during his career.
Miller conceded that the sanctioning body learned a lot from the experience and promises to do better in the future.
“I would kind of own the fact that maybe we did let it go a little bit too long before we did something,” Miller said during a Monday morning segment on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s a learning experience for all of us. We will learn. We will be better next time. I think probably your original question is would we the pull the plug earlier? Probably so.”
Harvick was eliminated from contention on Lap 19 when he slowed down due avoid a crash ahead of him but got drilled from behind when Bubba Wallace was unable to see that Harvick had lifted off the throttle.
That incident began when Ryan Blaney lifted due to poor visibility and was hit from behind by Christopher Bell.
The race began under a light mist, but the rain picked up throughout the race and track conditions worsened.
“It’s the most unsafe thing I’ve ever done in a race car by a lot,” Harvick said of the conditions. “You can’t see anything down the straightaways. These cars were not built to run in the rain, and when you can’t see, my spotter said, ‘Check up, check up,’ because he thought he saw two cars wrecking.
“I let off and the guy behind me hit me wide-open because he never saw me. It’s unbelievable that we’re out there doing what we’re doing because we’re in race cars that aren’t made to do this, and if you can’t see going down the straightaway it’s absolutely not safe, not even close.”
Harvick said NASCAR had no business racing in the rain.
“All I can say is this is the worst decision that we’ve ever made in our sport that I’ve been a part of, and I’ve never felt more unsafe in my whole racing career, period,” Harvick added.
A similar incident eliminated Martin Truex and Cole Custer. Truex lifted to avoid an incident. Custer couldn’t see in front of him and struck Truex so hard that it lifted the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 off the ground.
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Miller says NASCAR accepts the criticism.
“Harvick has his right to his opinion, obviously,” Miller said. “I don’t think that’s probably an opinion that is universally shared among the drivers. We certainly don’t want to put anybody in harm’s way out there.
“It’s a tough job for us to balance — competitive event, a good show for the fans and with the drivers’ best interest. It’s a tough job. I think rain at a race points out the fact that everybody in this business has a hard job. … We have a hard job. The drivers have a hard job. Everybody’s got a tough job.”
NASCAR ordered track dryers to push standing water off the racing surface after the Truex-Custer crash and mandated single-file restarts.
The decision to call the race on Lap 54 was met with criticism from fans, as there was still several hours of daylight remaining.
“Obviously as the race continued on in the final stage and kept raining harder and harder,” Miller said. “We were monitoring the visibility for the drivers on the back straightaway there.
“It was getting really, really tough to see again over there. Lots of spray. We were going to make one attempt at running the Air Titans (on the backstretch) like we have before to see if we could kind of get back going again, and it just didn’t look like it was going to happen at all with the volume of water that was coming down. It was time to call it.”
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