Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Rookie Stripe: Washout -- When it Rains at a NASCAR Race

Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs

With 38 races, one could argue that a single race is just a drop in the bucket in the big picture of a lengthy NASCAR season. The 2015 Toyota Owners 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday, April 25 at Richmond International Raceway was notable because it marked the first Sprint Cup series postponement of the year due to weather conditions.

For NASCAR, rain is problematic for many reasons, but safety is the real clincher. Think about the conditions: speeds topping 200 miles per hour, no headlights and smooth tires that hug the surface of the track. Rain on a track leads to less grip, which leads to higher risk of skidding, which leads to increased chance of accidents.

Weathering the Storm: Plan B
We see soccer matches played in the rain. Running races go on, too. So why not NASCAR races? When it rains, NASCAR has to make the call whether to delay the race for a few hours, or postpone it until the next day. This process can take hours, or even all day, as they monitor the weather and radar. Changing a race to later in the day, or even the next day, mightily complicates things for crew chiefs and pit crews. They have an intricate plan for each race that's developed long before race day, and a downpour that postpones the race for a few hours can alter the weather and track conditions dramatically. That means it may force them to modify their racing strategies, too.

Few NASCAR tracks are able to handle a deluge of rain because water seeps into the track, creating extremely hazardous conditions for drivers. NASCAR’s Air Titan track-drying system can be effective in a light drizzle or when rain has ended. The new Air Titan 2.0 packs air speeds of 568 miles per hour and if it were logistically possible, could dry an area the size of a football field in about 20 seconds. But sometimes even the hero Air Titan can’t come out victorious over unyielding torrents of rain.

In my opinion, rain at a NASCAR race really is the pits.

Talking Precipitation Preparation
Ironically, right after I wrote about how to prepare for your first race, with my nuggets of sage wisdom on weather, fashion and everything in between, I was at Richmond when the aforementioned race was postponed until Sunday. We waited most of the day to see if the showers would subside, but they never did. With temperatures hovering in the upper 40s, it was one of those merciless, chilling rains that seems to soak into your skin, and nothing will make you feel warm. I had on cropped pants, a long sleeve shirt, rain jacket and canvas shoes. I can tell you firsthand that by the time officials announced the race had been moved to Sunday, I would have paid big money for a pair of insulated rain boots like the ones I saw folks wearing around pit road.

My own advice, that I clearly didn’t follow that day: Be prepared for raceday weather conditions of any kind, dress in layers, and…footwear is everything.

For more information about how rain affects NASCAR tracks, tires and drivers, find a lengthy article at HowStuffWorks.com.

2 comments :

  1. Are you related to Tony Stewart? BTW, great article! Keep em coming.

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  2. Hi Sharlene! So sorry I just saw this. I'm not related, big fan. Thank you for reading

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