Coke Zero 400: Brian Vickers: NASCAR called race too early

Mike Ehrmann

Not everyone was happy with NASCAR’s decision to end Sunday’s race early because of rain.

As Aric Almirola celebrated victory others couldn't help but wonder how things might have been different had Sunday's NASCAR race not been rain-shortened at Daytona International Speedway.

Second-place finisher Brian Vickers openly questioned NASCAR's decision to call the race when heavy rain began falling 48 laps from the finish. The race had just resumed after a red-flag period to allow safety workers to cleanup a 26-car accident in Turn 3.

"We’ve got lights -- it’s Daytona. But I guess they felt they needed to call it so it is what it is." -Brian Vickers

The race was stopped around 2 p.m. ET. Originally, the Coke Zero 400 was scheduled for Saturday night before rain forced a one-day postponement.

"Knowing that we weren't even supposed to start the race last night until 7 p.m., I was shocked that we called it at 2-something in the afternoon," Vickers said. "I know a lot of the fans tuned into the TV and stuck around at the racetrack waiting to see a finish, and I was expecting them to wait a little bit longer knowing that we have lights here and it was going to be a night race anyway.

"We've got lights -- it's Daytona. But I guess they felt they needed to call it so it is what it is."

NASCAR waited almost an hour from the moment it started raining before declaring Almirola the winner. With inclement weather still threatening and unfavorable forecast that would have pushed the restart time well into the evening, officials thought it was best to call the race.

Kurt Busch, who finished third, also wished NASCAR would have attempted to dry the 2.5-mile track, but understood the circumstances involved. He was aware rain could come any moment.

"It seems early to call a race," Busch said. "It is Sunday already, and the majority of our fans that showed up were going to use this day to travel back home.

"The network TV side of it versus the safety of the fans, as well, with thunder and lightning in the area, it's a tough call to make."

The biggest lament Busch had was not putting himself in a better position to win with the threat of rain looming. He was leading shortly before the Turn 3 pileup collected over half the field. Almirola, however, passed Busch on Lap 105 -- just five laps ahead of the wreck. A lead Almirola would not relinquish.

"I didn't do my job to be the leader," Busch said. "We didn't quite have a couple solid restarts at the end to be the leader for when the race was going to get called."

Busch led a race-high 36 laps and seemed poised to finally get his first restrictor-plate track victory. He owns 25 wins overall, but none have come at either Daytona or Talladega Superspeedway.

"I've won IROC races and won a (Budweiser) Shootout, won a qualifying race; even a Nationwide race here, but haven't broke through for a points paying Cup win yet," Busch said. "I've got to go to the videotape. I've got to go back and study more. When I'm the leader, I have to advance my game. I have to be better at blocking and strategically managing the race as a leader."

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