Rules are rules: Larry Mac breaks down Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway

Let’s be honest, the last thing any of us think about when we go to either the spring or fall race at Phoenix International Raceway is dealing with the weather. We’ve been racing there since 1988 and I can only remember one other rain-shortened race. It was 1998 and Rusty Wallace was declared the winner. You just never really consider it a possibility when we head to Phoenix.

Naturally, the track and NASCAR did everything they possibly could do to get the race in on Sunday, but when that last rain moved in during that final caution there just wasn’t any option left. I know there are fans out there that say in cases like this there should be rules that say the race is continued the next day but you just can’t have special rules like that.

The rule is if the race reaches past the halfway mark, then it’s considered official and if they can’t get the race restarted on that same day, then it’s considered a completed race. All the competitors accept and acknowledge that. It’s just one of those givens we all know about in the garage.

I realize that it happening in the last race of the last round before the championship race has some fans saying there should be special rules for the Chase. When I look at the four that didn’t make the final four next week at Homestead, you do have to acknowledge that three of the four were flirting with making it.

I don’t know if Joey Logano could have outrun Kevin Harvick or eventual winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. but he was charging hard because his only chance to make the finale at Homestead was to win Sunday but Mother Nature intervened and he ended up third. Carl Edwards continued to flirt with staying just far enough ahead of Martin Truex Jr. a good chunk of the night, to point his way into the finale so who knows how that would have unfolded. Then there was Kurt Busch who was playing catch-up all night from the penalty at the start of the race.

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So I guess it wouldn’t be as big of a storyline if those three weren’t flirting around the edges of getting into the championship race, but like I mentioned earlier, everyone in the garage knows the weather rule. I think if you watched the post-race interviews, for those that didn’t make it in, you didn’t hear any complaining because that’s been the rule in our sport for like forever.

As I mentioned about Kurt, the start of the race was the turning point for him. I’ll be the first to tell you that NASCAR got it right. The rule for the start of the race, which is different from the normal restart rule, is crystal clear that the second place car cannot beat the pole sitter to the start-finish line. I know Kurt was only like a foot ahead of where he should have been, but he can’t do that and NASCAR made the right call. I like the fact that NASCAR is upholding the rules in a black and white fashion and not leaving it up to subjectivity. I like that and I think the drivers like that.

Obviously that was a huge turning point for Kurt. Watching him all weekend long, I felt like he was going to be the one to keep his teammate, Kevin Harvick, from winning yet another race at Phoenix.

Obviously the other turning point was the caution coming out in the middle of green flag pit stops. Call it luck or call it whatever you want, but it was just a lucky break for Dale Earnhardt Jr. That’s not to take away anything from him or the win. He ran up front all night long.

As much as I would like to sit here and see all eight of these drivers have a shot at the title next Sunday, I love the storylines we have with these four. You have a driver whose final race of his career is next Sunday and he has a chance to ride off into the sunset with his fifth championship. You got a driver who is trying to win back-to-back championships. You got a driver with two broken legs the day before the Daytona 500 in February, coming back and having a shot at the title while still running eleven less races than anyone else. Then you have a guy trying to win it all who has never finished higher than eleventh in the points.

I simply don’t know how you could script this out any better than to go to Homestead with Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. putting it all on the line Sunday to become our 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.