Said Satchel Paige: “You win a few, you lose a few, some get rained out. But you got to dress for all of them.”
There, couched in the baseball icon’s timeless words, lies the quandary of outdoor sports, particularly stock car races on paved ovals — events that cannot continue on a wet surface.
In last Sunday’s 300-lap NASCAR Cup Series at Nashville Superspeedway, rain and lightning became the story, overshadowing even the victory for NASCAR’s Mr. Popular, Chase Elliott.
The event took just shy of seven hours from the command to “start your engines” a few seconds after 5 p.m., to the checkered flag near midnight. Nearly half of that time the cars were parked, waiting for the weather to improve and track-drying equipment to do that job.
The Cup Series long ago became a television extravaganza. With that reality comes the requirement that even when inclement weather interrupts races, series participants and television commentators “dress for all of them,” as Paige put it.
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In large part, this column steers away from commenting on television’s presentation of races. But since that’s been the meat of the post-race conversation, let’s have at it.
On Sunday, racers and TV types all performed their rain-delay duties reasonably well — in some cases very well.
This was NBC’s first 2022 event, taking the TV reins from Fox Sports, which handles the first half of the Cup Series year. Lengthy breaks led to long interviews. The drivers were up to the task.
Ross Chastain, the sometimes too-aggressive driver for the ascending Trackhouse team, spoke at length and with insight about the dilemma a driver faces striking the balance between assertively contending for victory and politely sharing track space.
Chastain’s Trackhouse teammate, Daniel Suarez, was eloquent in his description of the jubilation he felt after his first Cup Series victory in the tour’s previous event two weeks earlier.
That said, after a while the NBC crew seemed to lean too hard on its fascination with the Trackhouse saga. Some viewers must have been itching to spend more time with other teams.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who has become something of a motorsports media sensation with a popular podcast and a show he produces and narrates visiting the sites of long-shuttered race tracks — was at his best. He conveys a driver’s split-second decision-making process in a way that appeals to both racing devotees and casual fans.
Former driver Jeff Burton is Earnhardt’s co-conspirator calling the race. His unguarded enthusiasm and tell-it-as-he-sees-it frankness no doubt appeal to old-school fans.
Sports broadcasting pro Rick Allen moved the commentary smoothly with his usual polish, deferring to the racing veterans as he should.
Steve Letarte, a crew chief for the Hendrick Motorsports team before turning to broadcasting, has become one of the best at explaining the technical aspect of a tech-heavy sport.
Aided by some first-class animation, Letarte gave a spot-on explanation of how a tire is changed with the single-lugnut wheel — adopted by NASCAR this season to replace the traditional five-lugnut version. Social media erupted with appreciation for Letarte’s detail and clarity.
After the race, I had an email exchange with two former Richmonders who are longtime fans.
David Browe, who lives in Cincinnati, travels extensively with wife Donna to attend races. They were at the Nashville race and were among the many fans who left during the longest weather delay. They watched the finish on TV from their RV in a nearby campground.
Browe’s weary email reminded me of the often-made point that routinely scheduling races to start after 3 p.m. rather than closer to noon — something NASCAR’s TV partners seem to find necessary — often squanders hours of better weather. Maybe that’s worth another look.
William Johnson emailed that he and wife Susan tried to watch the whole the race on TV from their Salem home. They retired for the night before the longest delay was over.
Johnson, a sometimes-philosophical type, made a list of many who had a stake in getting the race finished late Sunday rather than returning Monday to wrap things up.
Aside from the TV network and the telecast’s sponsors — his list included vendors, volunteer workers, fans both in the stands and watching on TV who didn’t have Monday off. He added NASCAR and track officials, and the race teams themselves (especially the hauler drivers, I thought), who need Monday as part of the process of preparing for and getting to this coming Sunday’s race on the Road America course in Wisconsin.
Few people know the burden of a weather-lengthened race better than Mike Joy, award-winning anchor of Fox’s Cup Series broadcast team. Joy tweeted the morning after the race, praising the NBC crew for keeping their telecast interesting through the “long slog” at Nashville.
Joy’s closing line: “Glad everyone’s headed home instead of back to the track this morning.”
I was just a TV viewer this time, Mike, but I’ve been there. And, oh, how I do agree with that.
Randy Hallman, a veteran NASCAR writer, is retired from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on