|Coca-Cola 600's 140,000 Ticket-Buyers
Plagued By Rain, Few Remain For End Of Race
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway (LMS) was a "soggy, sad result for the roughly 140,000 ticket-buyers who descended on the track Sunday afternoon, eager to witness the 50th running of one of NASCAR's crown jewels," according to Liz Clarke of the WASHINGTON POST. The race ultimately was moved to Monday due to rain, and "only a few thousand remained in the stands by the time the race was called" after 227 of 400 laps at 6:27pm ET. The fans sat through a "poor excuse for entertainment under miserable conditions," and the "stop-and-start nature of the proceedings was irritating for drivers, with rain changing the track's characteristics and shrouding the competition with uncertainty" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/26
). The AP's Mike Cranston noted LMS was "close to selling out the 140,000 grandstand tickets" on Sunday, but there were "only a few thousand fans still in their seats more than 24 hours later when David Reutimann finally was declared the anticlimactic winner." It appeared that "less than half the fans returned" on Monday after the race was postponed Sunday, and LMS officials said that while there were no refunds, ticket holders "would be entitled to a 10[%] discount" for the October 17 NASCAR Banking 500 only from Bank of America at LMS (AP, 5/25
). In North Carolina, Lenox Rawlings noted when the race started Monday "shortly after noon, there were more empty seats than people." The audience "contracted during each rain interruption," and by the "last red-flag stop, the crowd had dwindled to dirt-track size, with a smattering of people sprinkled amid the colored seats." The race "evolved into a test: How long was NASCAR willing to wait?" (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 5/26
). But ESPN.com's David Newton noted many of Sunday's attendees "returned on Monday despite the forecast for more bad weather ... and a host of complaints about what is wrong with the sport" (ESPN.com, 5/25
DELAYING THE INEVITABLE: SI.com's Tom Bowles wrote, "Within 30 minutes of the race's third red flag on Lap 227, everyone knew the radar left restarting the event all but impossible. For the next few hours, fans started leaving in droves while drivers changed into their street clothes -- knowing the answer everyone knew except apparently NASCAR itself." NASCAR was "left embarrassed by waiting about two hours too long" to call the race (SI.com, 5/25). In Charlotte, Jim Utter wrote NASCAR was in a "no-win situation" Monday. Utter: "Given the on-again, off-again nature of the weather, the nearly two hours it took to dry the track and the fact NASCAR waited longer than two hours after the final red flag before making the call, I think the right decision was made. ... But at some point, somebody has to make a judgment call. In this case, the speedway and NASCAR did their best to accommodate everyone" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/25). In Greensboro, Ed Hardin wrote, "There's never been a sporting event quite like the one we witnessed Monday, and hopefully we never will again" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 5/26). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote, "Race fans got to ponder all sorts of questions Sunday, like why there wasn't a better contingency plan to entertain those fans sitting miserably in their ponchos for hours a bit more. Or why Fox Sports announcers kept so optimistically proclaiming to their audience that there was going to be some racing when the truth was it never got close to that" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/25). However, Driver Ryan Newman, who finished second in the race, said NASCAR did an "excellent job putting an effort in" to attempt to finish the race on Sunday and Monday. Newman: "I don't think there was any type of premature call on the rain-shortened race [Monday]" (HAMPTONROADS.com, 5/25).
FAMILY FEUD: The AP's Cranston reported former SMI President & CEO Humpy Wheeler, who also served as LMS President and "ran the track for more than three decades," attended the Indianapolis 500 Sunday rather than the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600 due to an ongoing feud with SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith. Wheeler: "I thought after 33 years there that they would ask me to be there to be part of the celebration." Smith said that their relationship "turned sour last spring when Wheeler asked for a $5[M] severance as they discussed his impending retirement." Smith: "I think that his attitude changed when we said, 'No, we can't.'" Wheeler claimed that a "severance deal is common." Wheeler said that after he "told Smith of his retirement plans, Smith wanted to quickly replace him," which "led to Wheeler announcing his retirement before last year's Coca-Cola 600, a week earlier than Smith wanted." Wheeler added that he "hasn't spoken to Smith since." Cranston noted the feud "comes after the men helped create one of the top tracks in the country" (AP, 5/23). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen wrote, "The Bruton-Humpy relationship ended the way most relationships do. There probably were several factors -- money, the drag strip on which Bruton had insisted, Bruton's threat to yank the speedway out of Concord if he didn't get to build the dragstrip." The break-up between the two "simmered until Saturday," as Smith "apparently had seen, or been told about, at least one television report in which Humpy talked about the lack of an invitation." Smith: "I do know that I've seen some of the things he said. Some of you don't realize that he retired. Do you understand that? You understand what retirement is, right? He retired" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/24).
|Wheeler Attends Indy 500 Instead Of Coca-
Cola 600 On Sunday Because Of Ongoing Feud