NASCAR at Dover: Rain wins … for now: Cup race postponed until Monday

Brad Keselowski walks to driver introductions for the Gander RV 400 at Dover International Speedway on Sunday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Persistent rain showers might have dampened the concrete racing surface at Dover International Speedway on Sunday and proved to be frustrating for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams and fans, but they were unable to deter the enthusiasm surrounding the track’s 50th anniversary celebration.

However, in the end, the rain won.

The Gander RV 400 Monster Energy Series race will now be run at noon Monday on the high banks of Dover’s demanding one-mile oval. Dover hasn’t held a Monday race since 2007.

Today’s forecast looks considerably better than Sunday’s soggy one. The Weather Channel is calling for partly cloudy skies and temperatues in the high 60s.

The start of the race was delayed by rain for more than two hours on Sunday and was all set to take the green flag at 4:01 p.m. when more showers entered the area and the brightly painted race cars returned to pit road at 4:07 p.m., where they were quickly covered up by their pit crews.

The announcement of the race’s postponement followed soon after.

Chase Elliott will lead the field to the green flag from the pole position today alongside his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron.

Race fans walk in the rain on pit road at Dover International Speedway on Sunday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“It’s going to be a really tough race,” said Elliott, who won last week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. “So, you’d better eat your Wheaties these next couple of days and hydrate, because I think (today) is going to be tough. The No. 9 team has been working really hard and all of our group. We have a good group. We’ve just got to keep after it and hopefully stay where we start on (today).”

During Sunday’s delay, fans gathered around the FanZone near the Monster Monument and watched Charlie Daniels perform a free concert, micro wrestling, bicycle stunts and more. There was never a dull moment.

But most were eagerly waiting for the race cars to fire up their engines.

“Rain delays aren’t all that bad for the drivers just sitting around,” Ryan Blaney said. “The pit crews had to fly in (Sunday) morning and if everything doesn’t work out now, they’ll have to wait. It’s just like that for the fans. They come out and expect a great race and have to sit in the rain.”

Blaney remained optimistic during the delay.

“Hopefully, we get a little window and we can try to do something here, but (today) is supposed to be pretty good,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get it in (Sunday) and put on a show for the fans that came out. After they’ve been sitting in the rain all day it’s the least that we can do.”

Denny Hamlin was amazed at the amount of people gathered in the grandstands as rain continued to fall during driver introductions at 2:25 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson holds an umbrella as he talks with Kyle Busch before driver introductions.

“I walked out of the motorhome and up to driver introductions and thought, ‘There can’t be anybody here,’ and there were all of these fans out in the rain and they’re excited to see racing (Sunday), but I don’t know if it’s going to happen.”

Joey Logano was the driver who showed the most faith in the weather on Sunday. He had his bright yellow driver’s uniform on well before driver introductions and during the delay he even walked up into the grandstands to sign autographs for the fans.

“I had a lot of faith in this earlier in the day and that’s one of the things I said, ‘Listen, we need to be more optimistic about it,’” Logano said. “I’m still optimistic. I think there’s still a chance. I’d like to see race cars on the race track.”

The mighty Air Titan track dryers circled the track for more than three hours in an effort to make Dover’s high-banked, one-mile oval raceable.

Elliott’s pit crew pushed his Chevrolet onto pit road at 3:15 p.m. and William Byron’s Chevy was right behind him with the others following.

The pre-race invocation and National Anthem, performed by country music star John Rich, took place at 3:45 before drivers took to the race track at around 4 for their pace laps.

It appeared as if the race was on — well, almost.

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