Weather hits again at ’Dega
by Bran Strickland, Star sports editor
Apr 16, 2011 | 6309 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLLADEGA — With their weekend homes on wheels, the weather sirens that sounded at Talladega Superspeedway on Friday evening were heeded with the same reverence as “Gentlemen, start your engines.”

And a handful of drivers with small children and other family members sought out a more stable shelter inside the confines of the Ken Patterson Infield Media Center.

The drivers swapped small talk, their kids scurried about, all while in the background the flatscreen TVs that hung on the walls flashed blops of green, red and yellow, all signs of the storms that made their way into the area Friday afternoon.

“We were just bored,” said Joey Logano, who had family with him at his motorhome.

After it was all over, he brushed it off as “part of it,” saying he’d been through storms before.

“Yeah, it was here,” he said after a moment of thought. “Last year.”

The first wave of the storm that passed by Talladega Superspeedway after 6 p.m. did so without a reported incident of injury in the areas that surrounded the track.

But the forecast for the midnight hours promised more to come. And because of the earlier — and less worrisome — rain that fell, it turned today’s schedule into one as tight as the backs of the cars will be Sunday as they come through the turns.

Rain forced the cancellation of the final practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and the postponement of the ARCA Series 3 Amigos 250.

Track chairman Grant Lynch said he hoped to begin drying the track as early as 5:30 a.m. to make way for the race, which was moved until 8 this morning.

Qualifying for the Aaron’s 499 is set to begin at 10:35 a.m., and the Aaron’s 312 race is scheduled to follow at 2.

Track officials had kept a close eye on the storm well before it hit on Friday. It had been tracking across the nation’s Midwest.

As of midnight, the Associated Press reported 10 had died, nine in Arkansas and Oklahoma and one in Alabama.

Not knowing of the causalities, Carl Edwards cracked a small joke when asked if he was going to ride out things in his motorhome. He thought with the strides NASCAR had made in safety, he’d be better off somewhere else.

“… actually, put the helmet on and get in my car,” he said.

Edwards was only joking, and had genuine concern with family members in town for the race.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said. “I hope it gets through, and I hope everybody is safe.

“This stuff is nothing to mess around with. I worry about all the fans sitting out there in the campgrounds in their tents.”

But before the weather came through, there were at least two fans that wished they were in the tents. As Rachael Acra and Jeff Hunt — no strangers to tornadoes as natives of Missouri — strolled through the Sprint Cup garage, the first raindrops began to fall. It was then after hearing the news, they were glad to have their hotel rooms in Birmingham.

“Everybody wants to be in the campgrounds,” Acra said. “That’s where the fun is. But not tonight.”

The pair had witnessed just how bad it was going to be as they’d driven three hours, they estimated, through rough parts of the storm.

“You couldn’t even see out of your windshield,” Acra said.

But even seeing it first hand wasn’t going to dampen Hunt’s spirits.

“We’re used to it,” he said. “We see it all the time. She thinks it’s going to get bad, I don’t.”

Many drivers were the same way.

But then again, it’s tough to scare guys who drive 200 miles per hour in tightly grouped packs of cars.

“In all my times watching the Weather Channel, I’ve never heard of 43 big expensive buses getting destroyed,” Newman said. “I’m going to stick with the odds.

“I’m staying in my mobile home.”

Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland.

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