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How will NASCAR handle rain interrupting the championship race? ‘Each situation is unique’

Food City 500 - Practice

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 15: View of the NASCAR logo during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 15, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

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HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – With rain again looming for Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. NASCAR isn’t changing its policy to avoid resuming the following day if a race goes past halfway.

But vice president and chief officer of racing development Steve O’Donnell wouldn’t rule out the possibility, either.

“What I would say is each situation is unique,” he said Thursday after a news conference with championship contenders Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. “We’ve got to make a call based on what the circumstances present themselves as for Sunday in Miami. Not knowing that, we can’t make a decision, but I’d say our intent, and we’ll do everything possible within reason to run the full race, but it’s going to be a decision based on where we are, what’s happened, working with the track, looking at the race fans and then make a call.

“We can’t compare what we’ve done at other races. If we were going into a non-championship race, I’d have the same answer because it’s just depends on what’s happening.”

A gloomy weekend forecast for South Florida comes on the heels of a rain-shortened race at Phoenix International Raceway that concluded the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. When NASCAR stopped the event after 219 of the scheduled 312 laps shortly before 9 pm MT, it effectively eliminated Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano from advancing to the championship round.

Though damp conditions precluded restarting the race Sunday night, it raised questions about whether NASCAR would consider resuming a playoff race after it became official at halfway because of its magnitude.

Reiterating his Tuesday stance in a SiriusXM Satellite Radio interview, O’Donnell said NASCAR historically has operated with the understanding that a resumption is unlikely after a race reaches halfway.

“Again, I think you’d have to look at what the situation is,” O’Donnell said. said. “Each one is going to be unique in that if we start the race, our intent is always to run the full race if we can, but we also try to get it in during that day or night, within reason.

“That’s historically been how we’ve operated, (and) the understanding I think that you hear within the garage is that’s been our policy.”

After Game 5 of the World Series took three days to complete in 2008, Major League Baseball codified that playoff games couldn’t be shortened by rain.

O’Donnell said NASCAR could revisit its stance on playoff races in the offseason.

“That’s always been our policy to get through the year and look at some questions we had or different rules we may have made,” O’Donnell said. “So sure, I think that’s always something we’d look at; we’ve said the Chase is somewhat new. This is only the second year of this format, so that’s something we could look at. But that’s in cooperation with the racetracks, TV partners all sitting down and working together.”

NASCAR doesn’t start a race without the expectation that full distance can be reached.

“We would never start the Daytona 500 (at) 10 p.m., and we think we can get halfway before midnight,” he said. “That would never be our intention. It will always be if we start the race, we expect that we’ve got a shot to get the full race in, and then you never know what happens radar-wise or popup showers.

“Every race, we start with the intent of finishing the entire race.”