Concord, N.C. — Rain has wreaked havoc with NASCAR’s opening race for the second round of the playoffs.
All practice was canceled Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the start of Sunday’s race has already been moved up an hour to 1:10 p.m. ET to give NASCAR a bigger window to complete the 500-mile event.
It’s not the Chamber of Commerce weekend that Charlotte officials had hoped for when they rearranged the schedule. This event has traditionally been held on Saturday nights but was washed out last year by Hurricane Matthew.
Held the next day, on a gorgeous Carolina afternoon, the race was one of the more competitive events of the season. Drivers felt that running in the afternoon improved the on-track product, and Charlotte officials adjusted by moving the event to Sunday.
Now, Hurricane Nate is expected to spoil the day.
The track had a different struggle Friday after it discovered it had not properly applied traction compound to the track. It required a second application in the turns, but not before it caused Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and David Ragan to wiggle exiting Turn 4 and hit the wall during practice. Both Earnhardt and Busch had to move to backup cars.
Charlotte officials figured out that it had not applied enough of the PJ1 sticky substance in that turn, and drivers had asked about it after the dicey practice session.
“The stuff that they sprayed down, it has had a bad reaction to the sun or something that has made it really slick,” Earnhardt said after Friday’s accident. “Something has made it to where it doesn’t have grip, it’s the opposite.”
Now the rain will wash some of the substance away, and with all practice canceled Saturday, drivers won’t know what to expect when the race does begin. Earnhardt crashed in the opening moments of Friday practice, and said he’d avoid the top line of the track where the compound is until another driver demonstrates there’s no danger.
Alex Bowman raced to his first series victory Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, while four drivers were eliminated from playoff contention.
Bowman, who will replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. next year in the Cup series, led 32 laps in the race delayed 5 1/2 hours because of rain.
Bowman is not eligible for the playoffs.
Justin Allgaier, William Byron, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Elliott Sadler, Brennan Poole, Matt Tifft and Ryan Reed advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Brendan Gaughan, Michael Annett, Blake Koch and Jeremy Clements were eliminated from the playoffs.
Reed nipped Gaughan for the eighth spot overall by one point. Gaughan finished in 11th place — one spot ahead of Reed — but it wasn’t enough to catch him in the playoffs.