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Posted:     Post subject: Nascar

RICHMOND, Va. -- Fearing for the safety of more than 100,000 fans expected to attend the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway that was scheduled for Saturday night, NASCAR officials elected Friday evening to postpone the start of the race until 1 p.m. ET Sunday after rain from Tropical Storm Hanna threatened to swamp the track.

Spinoff rain from Hanna struck RIR Friday afternoon at about 4:15 p.m., wiping out all hope NASCAR officials had of holding the remainder of scheduled activities for not only that evening, but for all day Saturday as well. Hanna was nearing hurricane strength as of Friday afternoon as it worked its way up the East Coast, with the storm's projected path over eastern Virginia.

"We've postponed everything until Sunday in lieu of the weather, in lieu of the forecast, and in lieu of what all the state, local, city officials are telling us about the impending winds and rain. We felt it was the right decision to make," said Jim Hunter, vice president of corporate communications for NASCAR.

Track president Doug Fritz added: "You can't always tell 24 hours out what the weather is going to do, so you always try to balance it. We really pushed to get both races in as scheduled, both Friday night and Saturday night. But at some point, you've got to make a determination that it's not going to happen."

The Nationwide event will now be run at 7 p.m. Sunday, after the conclusion of the Cup race and after the grandstands have been cleared, according to Hunter. Sunday's Cup race still will be televised by ESPN. The Nationwide race will be on ESPN2.

Qualifying for both events was washed out Friday, leaving the starting lineups for each to be set according to the NASCAR rulebook. For the Nationwide Series, the top 30 were guaranteed starting positions; for Cup, it was the top 35.

Denny Hamlin said he was looking forward to the unexpected day off, and what it might mean for his No. 11 Toyota.

"At night this racetrack can go tight or go loose; it depends on your racecar," Hamlin said. "I looked at lap times [in Friday's final practice before the rain hit] and not a lot of guys were slipping and sliding during the day and they kind of bank on it getting one way or the other at night.

"Our car was very strong during the day practice [Friday], so we're more geared toward day than we are night. But we were like that here last year when we had to race on a Sunday [following a rain postponement in the spring race]. We felt like we had a pretty decent car and we were hoping for night racing. Then it ended up during the day and we said, 'If the track was cooler, we would be right where we needed to be.'

"We finished third and at this point we will take a third-place finish to [head into] the Chase. I think either way, day or night, it's not going to change our mentality."

Carl Edwards said he appreciated the fact that NASCAR did not delay in making the call.

"It's kind of neat knowing," Edwards said. "In a way I'm kind of glad NASCAR did it this way, so that we aren't just waiting around for it to dry out. We know when we're racing, and I think that will be cool."

Hunter said he could not recall another time in NASCAR history when officials postponed a Cup event so far in advance.

"I can't recall another incident where we went out this far," Hunter said. "Our position is usually to do everything in our power to get the events in as scheduled. But I think there were some mitigating circumstances with this, particularly when you get to the amount of high winds that are forecast for here, as well as the rain that's forecast for here.

"The emergency officials in the state and locally are telling us that there are going to be some high winds [Friday] night into [Saturday] morning that could knock down power lines, knock down trees, knock limbs into the road. We just felt this was the right thing to do."

The postponement left drivers wondering what to do on the sudden day off. Some were looking for a flight back to their homes around metro Charlotte. Sprint Cup points leader Kyle Busch was thinking about heading to the quarter-mile track in Newport, Tenn., where his Late Model team is scheduled to compete. "I've got a backup car in the trailer," Busch said. "We might roll it out."

Jimmie Johnson, who is third in points behind Busch and Edwards, added with a smile: "I'll try to find a ride home if I can. If not, I guess I'll sit around in my motorhome and be lazy and watch golf carts float by or fly by during the night."

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