Nascars Longest Week

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- One of the longest weeks the NASCAR Winston Cup Series has ever had to endure got longer Sunday.

Rain hampered the Dura-Lube 400 at North Carolina Speedway, causing the race to be called late in the afternoon after only 52 laps were completed. The race was the first Winston Cup event since the death of seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt last Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.

The Earnhardt family, members of Dale Earnhardt Inc., and employees of Richard Childress Racing have had their own trials and tribulations to sort through this past week. NASCAR itself has come under fire all week concerning safety issues in the sport.

So, with the teams traveling to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the UAW-Daimler-Chrysler 400 this coming weekend, Sunday’s rainout was the last thing most wanted to see. The Dura-Lube 400 was scheduled to resume at 11 a.m. Monday.

"We needed to race today," said Stacy Compton, who will lead the Dura-Lube 400 when the green flag drops again Monday morning. "When you get pumped up and get ready for the race and come here and sit around for four or five hours, that’s tough.

"We’ve got Las Vegas coming up next week, and it’s going to be tough for the truck drivers to race Monday and get back home and get everything switched over and get to Vegas. I wish we could have raced today (Sunday) and got at least half of it in. We needed to get the show on the road and get ready to go to Vegas."

"We definitely wanted to get out of here today," said defending Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte, who will re-start the race Monday from the sixth position. "I’m sure everybody did. We all want to go on to Vegas and everything. But, it didn’t happen, so we’ll come back tomorrow (Monday) and run the rest of the race. But, we definitely would like to be going home tonight instead of racing (Monday), but sometimes you can’t help it."

Rain delayed the start of the Dura-Lube 400 for nearly 90 minutes Sunday, and intermittent showers kept the race from going green for any extended period of time.

"I think staying another day is hard on everybody, but it’s part of what we do," said Joe Gibbs, the owner of Labonte’s No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac. "We knew it (the weather) was going to be risky today (Sunday), but I think NASCAR did the best they could at getting it in and they couldn’t. That’s part of what we do. You’ve got to be resilient. You’ve got to be the kind of team that can bounce back, get ready to go tomorrow and hopefully have a good day."

Almost fittingly, the only driver who won’t have to return to North Carolina Speedway Monday is Dale Earnhardt Jr. The driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet and the son of "The Intimidator" was involved in a four-car accident on the first lap of Sunday’s event.

His car was damaged beyond repair, so, after a second-place finish at Daytona the previous week, Earnhardt Jr. will finish last at Rockingham.

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