New Hampshire 300 Postponed

NASCAR has decided not to race this weekend, after all.

The New Hampshire 300 Winston Cup race at New Hampshire International Speedway has been postponed, moved to the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 23. Also, the Craftsman Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway was postponed to Oct. 5.

The decision was made by NASCAR officials around 2 p.m. (ET), about two hours after the NFL announced all its games this weekend were postponed.

Major League Baseball later called off all its games until Monday, and the PGA Tour event in St. Louis and the Senior PGA Tour match in Clemmons, N.C. were canceled. Also, many major college conferences were postponing Saturday’s football games.

“This is a time for families to come together,” NASCAR President Mike Helton said in a statement. “We felt that postponing this weekend’s race was simply the right thing to do. We join the nation in mourning those who lost their lives, and pray that those wounded will recover fully.”

The New Hampshire 300, originally scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m., is the first Winston Cup race since the 1998 Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway to be postponed. Wildfires in Florida moved that race to October.

Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Tuesday stunned Americans, who have remained glued to television sets watching the latest reports on the bombings. The nation’s air-travel system was halted Tuesday and only now has begun to resume.

“I support NASCAR’s decision, postponing the race was the proper thing to do,” Winston Cup points leader Jeff Gordon said. “There are far more important things going on in this country right now than running a race.

“We have all been deeply affected by this tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims.”

The Silverado 350 NCTS race was scheduled for Friday, and the TMS website said early Thursday a “final decision” had been made that the race – run in conjunction with an Indy Racing League North Lights Series event – would be run as planned. But later, NASCAR said it would not.

“Obviously, this has been a difficult process for us all from the very beginning,” Texas Motor Speedway General Manager Eddie Gossage said. “Opinions have been mixed, but it seemed clear from the fans’ response the races should go on as planned. However, with airport operations still in limbo, it’s logistically impossible for all of the teams and fans to even get here. After more discussions today, we all agreed this was the appropriate thing to do.”

NHIS Chairman Bob Bahre, who owns the track with his son, Gary, said Wednesday the race needed to run to “give people a lift” from the week’s tragic events. Bahre told The Associated Press on Thursday it was “NASCAR’s decision” to postpone the race, “but we agreed with them 100 percent.”

“We fully support NASCAR’s decision to postpone the race,” Gary Bahre said in a statement. “We regret the tragic circumstances that made the postponement necessary. But we truly understand the decision and our hearts go out to those who have suffered losses.”

Gary Bahre said all tickets to the New Hampshire 300 will be honored at the November event.

NASCAR had announced Tuesday after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that Friday’s qualifying at NHIS was canceled, but the race was still on.

Many Winston Cup teams and personnel were already en route to New Hampshire when the announcement came. The halting of the country’s air travel by the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday scrambled Winston Cup teams’ plans, and many were ready for the 900-mile drive from Charlotte to Loudon, N.H.

The Hendrick Motorsports transport for Gordon was already en route, as were many other haulers. Hendrick had vans on standby for the drive, waiting on whether private planes could fly. Gordon was to have waited until Friday, hoping to fly.

Richard Childress Racing and Wood Brothers Racing were two teams who had rented buses for the drive to New Hampshire.

Most major airports were opening Thursday, but the resumption of full service was not expected for several days. Major carriers had precedence over Cup team’s private plans, according to one team spokesman.

Drivers Jeff Burton and John Andretti had set a 6 p.m. deadline Thursday, when they were going to start driving.

“If they hadn’t opened up the airspace by 6, we were gonna start driving,” Burton said. “Then I started thinking, ‘That’s just me, what about all of the fans and the people who wouldn’t be able to get there?’ So, logistically, it was certainly turning into a nightmare. This is an extraordinary situation, so I think it calls for a proper amount of attention to be paid to it, and it looks like to me that’s what it’s getting.”

The Hendrick road crew will get a three-day weekend instead of a normal Monday off. The Hendrick shop would remain under “normal business hours” this weekend, according to spokesman Jon Edwards, with a normal skeleton crew.

James Ince, crew chief for Johnny Benson, gave his crewmen the weekend off.

“We are going to let our guys go home this afternoon and be with their families and let them deal with what has happened that way,” Ince said. “They need time to cope. We were in a mad push to get home from Richmond, then we hurried to Kansas City for testing Monday and then drove home on Tuesday. (Wednesday) and Thursday we were getting ready for New Hampshire.

“Now that we don’t have to go to New Hampshire, we can take a step back and take in what has happened. I told our team to ‘Go home, be with your family them come back Monday.’”

The starting lineup for the New Hampshire 300 was set according to the Winston Cup Series rule book after NASCAR canceled Friday’s qualifying. That lineup will also be used for the rescheduled race.

The Featherlite Modified and Busch North Series races scheduled for NHIS on Saturday were canceled, as well.

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