It's 8:30 p.m. Sunday night as I write this and the Daytona Beach Dopler Radar shows no rain falling or expected in the immediate future and I suggest the reason they pulled the plug on the Daytona 500 for the first time in recorded history is not because it would too late to race but because of the Academy Awards.
Let me give you the background first. Then I'll explain my theory.
Persistent rain in the Daytona Beach area forced NASCAR to postpone the 500 from its scheduled 1 p.m. starting time. Shortly after 5 p.m., it was announced out of the blue that, for the first time in its 54 years, the race was being cancelled and would be held Monday, starting at noon.
But what if it had cleared up? Don't they have lights at Daytona? Even if it was 9 p.m. or so, couldn't they have gotten it in?
Maybe they could have, but there were other forces at work here.
NASCAR likes to tell everybody that more than a third of its audience is women. Which is true, because men like to drag their wives and girlfriends to the speedway or have them with them when they watch the races on television.
But I have noticed - and I am a keen observer of the human condition - that unlike men, every few (if any) women actually go to the race tracks by themselves, or with a friend. They are usually with their men or their families. Along the same lines, I would be very surprised if any more than one or two women actually sit home by themselves on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon to watch NASCAR, or NFL football or Ultimate Fighting. If truth be told, they watch because their men friends want them to.
So women watch car racing, or whatever, as a mating or family activity. Fair enough. I know men who go shopping with their wives, or to the opera, just so their wives will go fishing with them. It's the way of the world.
Sunday afternoon, as the rain continued, NASCAR realized it had a problem. Never mind the delay of the race, because they would be able to get that going whenever. The problem was that when they did, would anybody be watching?
The Academy Awards were scheduled Sunday evening and coverage started at 6 p.m. with what's called the Red Carpet. The Red Carpet is really a fashion show. It is primarily for women. The first question anybody asks the female movie stars is, "who are you wearing?" It is a time when women are watching and men are out buying Chinese food or Kentucky Fried Chicken for the family to eat in front of the TV.
So NASCAR knew that if the race had started at 1 p.m. like it was supposed to, it would have been over in time for the Oscars. But otherwise, it would be game over at 6 p.m. when all the wives in North America would say to their boyfriends and husbands, "I don't care if (take your pick: Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, A.J. Allmendinger, etc.) is winning, I want to know who designed Gwyneth Paltrow's dress."
Which is why NASCAR, wisely, decided to pull the plug on the Daytona 500.
Better to have lower ratings on Monday when everybody is working than to get killed in the ratings on Sunday night when they put their car race up against the Oscars.