Albert Hammond was dead wrong.
In his only top-20 hit as a solo performer, Hammond proclaimed “It Never Rains in Southern California.”
Quite the contrary. It was the forecast of torrential rains in the Los Angeles area that forced NASCAR to make the unprecedented decision to run the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum a day early.
Unlike Hammond, the forecast was spot-on.
Heavy rains arrived on Sunday, the day the Clash was supposed to occur. By 10 p.m. Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times, 7.04 inches of rain had fallen in downtown L.A., nearly twice the average rainfall for the entire month of February—and almost 50 percent of the average downtown rainfall of 14.25 inches for an entire year.
From Friday on, every newscast in Southern California centered on the weather, complete with advisories to refrain from driving until the storm passed. On Sunday morning, emergency flash flood warnings lit up cell phones throughout Los Angeles, warnings that were repeated on Monday.
In retrospect, all the circumstances that unfolded on Sunday and Monday validated the wisdom and necessity of moving the Clash to Saturday evening.
“What we’re doing right now is unprecedented,” NASCAR chief operating officer Steve O’Donnell said in announcing the move on Saturday. “It’s in the best interest of the fans. It’s going to be an inconvenience, certainly, for those who had tickets and were really looking forward to this.
“We’re going to reach out to every single fan to see what we can do to make it good on their end, but this was our best option for us to at least see some racing, get people tuning in on FS1 and also those who were already coming out, to put on a race for them.”
It was not an ideal solution, but no solution under the prevailing circumstances could have been ideal. In hindsight, it was the only solution that would have allowed the Clash to run.
It was unfortunate that the race played to a sparsely populated Coliseum. It was unfortunate that NASCAR had to bear the financial burden of making disappointed ticket holders whole.
The bottom line, though, was that NASCAR had to race on Saturday or race not at all. The result was an exciting event, won by Denny Hamlin in overtime, with plenty of bumper-to-bumper action.
After the Clash, the NASCAR Mexico Series completed a 150-lap race, won by Daniel Suarez.
Because of NASCAR’s decision—made with the blessing of TV partner FOX, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission and the City of Los Angeles—the NASCAR Cup Series transporters are headed back to the East Coast, soon to be armed for the Feb. 18 DAYTONA 500 (at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
A national television audience got to see a race that otherwise would not have been run. And teams, drivers, officials and the press corps were spared the inconvenience of sitting in the Coliseum on Sunday, watching the rain fall and waiting for the race to be called.
NASCAR made the only possible decision that would have allowed racing this past weekend, and Albert Hammond continues to be wrong.
Perhaps a more appropriate tune for the weekend would have been Phil Collins’ title song for a film that included scenes shot in the nearby Hollywood hills—”Against All Odds.”
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