NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Fontana postponed by rain

FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — NASCAR postponed the Xfinity Series race at Fontana to Sunday night because of steady rain at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday.

Practice and qualifying sessions for both weekend races at Fontana had already been canceled because of consistent, heavy rain from an extraordinary Southern California storm.

The Xfinity drivers still went through their introductions, got into their cars and took pace laps during a short break in the weather, but rain began to fall again during the warmup. Track officials used jet driers in an attempt to improve the surface, but the task quickly became impossible.

Drivers laughed when they saw their breath freeze while they took their pace laps, and they audibly worried about the steadily increasing rain until NASCAR red-flagged them shortly before the start. The cars were parked in pit lane under their rain covers for almost an hour before NASCAR finally gave up on racing roughly 2 1/2 hours after the scheduled start time with the temperature at 41 degrees.

The Xfinity race will now take place after the Cup Series race Sunday, with an expected local start time of 5 p.m.

Both the Cup Series and Xfinity Series drivers will have to race without practice on the track east of Los Angeles, with the starting orders determined by the metric used to set the qualifying order.

Christopher Bell will be on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race, with Daytona 500 champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joining him on the front row.

This is the final race weekend on the famously weathered asphalt of the 2-mile track at Auto Club Speedway. A half-mile track is expected to be built on the site over the next two years, which means NASCAR won’t race in Southern California next year.

While drivers uniformly love the racing on the weathered asphalt of Fontana’s two-mile track, they also know Sunday could be challenging even if the rain stops as expected overnight. Along with uncommonly cold temperatures, the aged racing surface will be particularly prone to weeping — when moisture seeps through the cracks in a racetrack long after the rain.

“I’m not as concerned about the cold temperatures as I am about the track weeping,” defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano said. “Older track surface, a lot of cracks within it, I would assume it’s going to be hard to drive this thing. And we’re probably going to start with wet spots on the racetrack. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to get them all, and it’s hard to do it because the track is so wide. The racing groove is so wide.”