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How the NASCAR Schedule Works

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Rain Delays and Race Cancellations
At a high-speed oval track, rain on race day means no racing.
At a high-speed oval track, rain on race day means no racing.
Jamie Squire/­Getty Images

­As you know, all types of weather can play havoc in NASCAR racing -- especially rain. Because stock cars depend on downforce to maintain grip on the high-banked oval tracks that make up the bulk of the schedule, NASCAR racing comes to a grinding halt whenever it rains.

As we mentioned earlier in this article, NASCAR formerly held nearly twice as many races during a season as it does today. That left very little wiggle room in the event of a rain delay or race cancellation. At times, daylight issues made things even more difficult. Most tracks didn't have lights that illuminated the racing surface. In fact, that didn't come along until SMI owner O. Bruton Smith installed lights at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 1992. But nowadays, NASCAR teams have a little more flexibility in case of rain. Typically the race will be run on the next available day. If rain cuts a race short, NASCAR officials can officially determine a race winner as long as at least 50 percent of the laps have been completed. If rain comes early in the day and the drivers don't have the opportunity to even start the race, the entire race will be run on the next day. In the rare occurrence that a race cannot be rescheduled before it's time to prepare for the next race on the schedule, NASCAR will hold the race after the end of the regular season. To date, that has only happened once -- during the 2001 season after NASCAR cancelled the fall race at Louden, N.H. in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11. The rescheduled race was held on November 23; a week after crowning Jeff Gordon the 2001 champion.

­Most NASCAR teams are accustomed to traveling 10 months out of the year, but for some, the demanding schedule takes its toll. Drivers such as Mark Martin and Bill Elliott have competed in the series for many years but cite the overwhelming schedule as too arduous to keep up with full time. Perhaps the challenging schedule is part of the reason NASCAR seems to be turning into a young man's sport. In the early days of NASCAR, drivers pulled their own race cars from track to track and the smaller prize money necessitated the need to race year-round. These days, prize and sponsorship money at even a single race can make drivers an instant millionaire, and as long as the prize money continues to flow, NASCAR can cherry pick the best races for its schedule.

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