Will NASCAR entertain calls to move July Daytona race back to daytime?
Rain wreaked major havoc on Daytona International Speedway’s summer race weekend proceedings for the second consecutive year this past weekend, sparking discussion about NASCAR returning the event to the traditional midday start time it held before the track hosted its first night race in 1998.
Among those whom espouse such a move are FOX NASCAR announcer Larry McReynolds and FOXSports.com manager of digital content Tom Jensen.
Would the sanctioning body actually consider putting Daytona’s summer classic back in its old daytime slot?
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, addressed this question in an interview earlier this week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
"I don’t think so," O’Donnell said. "I think the sport is so big now and there are so many partners that are involved. I know it might be easier to look at an 11 a.m. start.
"It’s our job to look at all factors to grow the sport as much as we can and make it as fan-friendly as possible."
Scheduled to get under way just after 8 p.m. ET, Sunday night’s Coke Zero 400 at the World Center of Racing was delayed more than three-and-a-half hours by persistent rain that drenched Daytona’s 2.5-mile racing surface. Last July, the race was postponed a day by wet weather.
Driver Jamie McMurray, for one, would welcome the return of a midday or early afternoon race.
"Yeah, absolutely I would," the three-time Daytona winner said in an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com on Thursday. "The part that’s frustrating about Daytona in July, and anyone who’s either lived there or goes there every year in July (knows), is it rains every single day at 3 o’clock, it seems like. But every day it rains.
"It’s frustrating because you sit in the bus from 6 a.m. until 3 and it’s beautiful outside, hot, but not raining. And then it starts raining at 3 and if you get in a situation like we had the other night, it rained for five or six hours. So I think everyone’s a little frustrated because you watch it be nice outside and then rain come at night."
McMurray believes the drivers ultimately don’t have much pull in when the race will be held in future years.
"It’s really not about what we want," he said. "It’s about what TV wants and what the fans want. I’m fine with running it at night and I’m fine with running it in the day. It really doesn’t matter to me."