DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Mother nature wins again. Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 was postponed before we could turn a single lap and moved to a 10 a.m. ET start on CNBC. That’s a throwback to when this race used to begin when it was originally ran on the 4th of July.
Really from 1959 through 1997, this race was always run in the morning hours of either 10 a.m. ET or 11 a.m. ET. It wasn’t until lights were installed that this race was moved to a night time event beginning in 1998.
The reason for the early start time was because of the threat of the daily afternoon Florida storms. It’s summer in Florida which for those that have ever been to the Sunshine State during the summer months, you know the best time to see sunshine is from the morning hours through early afternoon.
From then on, storms frequently pop up and run through the area. So if they could start the race between 10 and 11 in the morning hours, you can get 400 miles in before the rain settled in. On days that it didn’t rain, you could run the 160 lap race and be on the beach by mid afternoon.
These weather issues didn’t start to arise until the race was moved to under the lights. You’re just asking for troubles.
Just 1 of the first 39 races was interrupted by weather. That came in the rain shortened event in 1996.
This is the 3rd time in the last 25 years that the race was totally rained out to a new day including 2 of the 3 coming in the last 4 years at that.
Furthermore, this is the 4th straight year qualifying didn’t happen for the Coke Zero Sugar 400. 2019 and 2021 were also rained out with 2020 qualifying not even happening due to COVID measures.
The last time we qualified for this race was July 6, 2018.
2015, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 are all recent years we didn’t qualify for this race.
2 races were also shortened due to rain in this time frame too including that same one in 2019. It makes you wonder, when will they learn that the reason this race was run in the summer time and in that original time slot was to avoid this. Sometimes things don’t necessarily need to evolve to something that it’s not. Running a Daytona night race in the summer isn’t wise. It’s not smart. This is what we get and we wonder annually why we keep fighting this.
I get it, high speeds, high banks and cool cars under the lights at a big track. I truly do. I also get the notion to have this race be the cut race of the regular season. I get it all and the idea in theory is a good one. However, I don’t love the fact that it’s run at night for this very factor either. Whether it’s early July or late August, the weather conditions are the exact same.
This spot on the schedule is your Game 7 type moment and you’re more than likely going to have to deal with weather interruptions or delays. Now this year, you have that Game 7 airing at 10 a.m. ET and I honestly don’t know how I feel about that.
I truly do like the back to a 10 a.m. ET start for this race, but is that best for a regular season finale? I think the better case scenario is to move this race back to the 4th of July like it used to be, no matter what day of the week that falls, run it in the morning hours and make this a unique event again. That makes too much sense.
Too hot? It’s why it’s run in the morning. Too early? Spare me. The ratings are being held back by catering to the west coast viewer who truly doesn’t necessarily want later afternoon start times. If they did, these ratings would be massive. They’re not. The west coast fans aren’t carrying their weight so they can be the ones to adjust for once.
As far as how this could all work out?
Atlanta is a track that looks more and more like a Daytona or Talladega and has lights in a big market to where you can just end the regular season there.
You’re almost just flipping dates too since Atlanta has been the 2nd weekend of July the last couple of years. They get to keep 2 dates and move the weekend before Labor Day (they used to host a Labor Day weekend race). Daytona moves back to it’s original home and all would be right.
Granted, I know some pain in the ass will point out that there’s a chance of rain tomorrow morning in Daytona too and that it rained in Atlanta tonight. That’s 1 year. It also didn’t rain in Daytona this morning either and an afternoon start and we’d have this race signed, sealed and delivered.
Instead, we tempted fate again and fate won….When will NASCAR learn?
Sunday’s race day schedule
Parking Lots Open: 7 a.m. ET
Gates Open: 8 a.m. ET
Driver Intros: 9:20 a.m. ET
Invocation: 9:46 a.m. ET
Anthem: 9:47 a.m. ET
Command: 9:53 a.m. ET
Green Flag: 10:05 a.m. ET
Distance: 160 Laps/400 Miles
Stage Lengths: 35-60-65
Weather: 50-60% chance of rain at start time
Streaming: Peacock, NBC Sports App