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Rain postpones NASCAR race

Casey Mears is removed from his car, lying on its side, after a multicar crash in turn two on Sunday during the NASCAR Auto Club 500.

Casey Mears is removed from his car, lying on its side, after a multicar crash in turn two on Sunday during the NASCAR Auto Club 500.

FONTANA, Calif. – NASCAR officials finally gave in to the weepers.

After trying for nearly five hours to get the two-mile oval at Auto Club Speedway dry, NASCAR called it a day, postponing the completion of the Sprint Cup series Auto Club 500 until Monday at 8 a.m. Tucson time.

The drivers had completed 87 of the scheduled 250 laps when a heavy downpour caused the third delay of the day.

The race finally began about 2 1/2 hours after its scheduled 1 p.m. start time, but it was slowed by two early crashes and then halted as NASCAR and track officials looked for a way to stop the weepers – places where water seeped through the seams of the 2-mile oval.

Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr., involved in separate crashes in the early going, were critical of the track, blaming the wet conditions for their problems.

Hamlin slid up the track and hit the wall hard on lap 14 of the 250-lap event.

“I think we can get back out there, but I think there are 42 other drivers that would agree that we should not be racing on that racetrack right now,” Hamlin said. “I hit a slick spot and my car took off. You can see it on television – right at the seams, it’s seeping a lot of water. I hit a wet spot and I’m not going to be the last one.”

After the race was restarted, Casey Mears apparently slid through water on lap 21 and clipped new Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Behind them, former open-wheel star and Cup rookie Sam Hornish Jr., slammed into the rear of Reed Sorenson. Then, with his hood blocking his vision, he plowed into Mears, turning his car over.

Hornish’s car burst into flames as safety workers arrived and quickly put out the fire. None of the drivers was injured.

Earnhardt, looking for his first Cup victory since May 2006, was irate over the conditions in which the race was started.

“It’s just a dirty old racetrack out there,” Earnhardt said. “It’s just frustrating, man. The track isn’t ready today. We just rushed into this. It was a bad move.”

Other drivers weren’t as upset about the track conditions.

After NASCAR stopped the field on pit lane while workers cut into the track with concrete saws in an attempt to stop the “weepers,” two-time series defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said, “It seemed like the track was the best it’s been when they were bringing us onto pit road. We just need some time running out there to get some rubber down and get the dirt off the track.”

The first red flag lasted 1 hour, 7 minutes.

Once the racing got going again, the track appeared to be much improved and things were looking up until it began raining hard again.

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