Hermine washes out NASCAR qualifying at Darlington

Posted at 4:26 PM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-02 16:26:15-04
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Joey Logano hung pictures and changed lightbulbs at home. Jamie McMurray tinkered around with his radio controlled car. Chris Buescher shrugged his shoulders, wasn't much he or fellow drivers could after qualifying for Sunday's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway was cancelled because of Hurricane Hermine.
"I'm definitely disappointed we couldn't qualify," Buescher said. "On the flip side of that, what are you going to do? We're along for the ride when it comes to Mother Nature."
And it's been a soggy ride for Sprint Cup teams in recent weeks as weather once more engulfed NASCAR.
Rain delayed the Pocono race that was scheduled for Sunday, July 31 until the following day, while Bristol's Saturday night showcase last month also had to finish a day late because of heavy storms in East Tennessee that race weekend.
At Darlington, Hermine shoved her way into the picture and forced NASCAR to call off qualifying for the Sprint Cup and Xfinity series, deciding it was more important to use Saturday's track time -- the forecast calls for sunshine and minimal rain chances the rest of the weekend -- for precious practice time on Darlington's egg-shaped layout.
The Xfinity race is set to run Saturday afternoon with the Southern 500 on Sunday night.
Still, the cancelled activities gave drivers some unexpected downtime to fill.
"This is weird. I'm home right now," Logano said Friday. "It doesn't feel right."
Buescher has been helped and hurt by the weather.
The rookie driver for Front Row Motorsports was leading at Pocono when rains finally ended things, gaining the victory that would qualify him for the Chase as long as he finished within the top 30 in points after next week's Richmond race.
Buescher rose up to No. 30 two weeks ago with his fifth-place finish at Bristol, yet finished 35th at Michigan last Sunday and is just seven points ahead of David Ragan -- and falling out of the Chase -- headed to Darlington.
Buescher will start 31st on Sunday and knows he would've begun much higher if qualifying had gone on before Hermine's interference.
"That's a little bit of a bummer," he said.
Logano, who completed a "honey-do" list from wife Brittany with his down time, had hoped to be at Darlington to enjoy the throwback festivities as 36 of 40 teams are using special paint schemes to honor NASCAR history.
Logano is driving a Shell-sponsored car that Bobby Labonte drove to the company's first victory in 1996 at Nashville Speedway, now part of the Xfinity Series.
"I wish we were down there today and the weather was nice so we could see some of those beauties," Logano said of the throwback Sprint cars.
Logano, who's best finish in seven career Sprint Cup races at Darlington was a fourth last September, was glad that NASCAR made the decision to wipe out Friday's sessions early enough that teams and crew members weren't caught between the track and hotels waiting out delays.
"This is a lot better situation to deal with it, stay at home, spend some time with your family," Logano said.
Kevin Harvick will start on the pole with the field set by owner's points. Brad Keselowski is second followed by Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Logano. Kyle Busch is sixth, ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin with Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth closing out the top 10.
Jeff Gordon, the seven-time Darlington winner subbing once again for injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., starts 15th. Hendrick Motorsports announced Friday that Earnhardt would miss the rest of the season because of concussion-like symptoms from a crash at Michigan in July.
McMurray, who holds the 16th and final spot in the Chase standings, did not let the washout spoil the good feelings he has entering the weekend. He'll start 13th on Sunday and believes he can enhance his position.
"That's going to be a good track for us," McMurray said. "I feel really good heading in."