Why NASCAR Can’t Race in the Rain

NASCAR announced this week their new Air Titan 2.0 to combat when Mother Nature decides to strike. Rain has been an issue for decades for the number one motorsport in America and many have asked, why not just race in the rain? NASCAR has raced several times in the rain including the 2008 NASCAR Montreal race, but that race continued under caution and not actual race speeds.

2014 alone has already seen two rain delays on race day for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the season opener Daytona 500 and the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. I was in attendance at both of these races and took note of how fans and track officials acted during the delays.

At the Daytona 500, fans scrabbled to seek shelter as there was more rain than expected, which lead to a six hour delay. On the backstretch if you were not sitting below the suites or were standing on the second level concourse, you got soaked. On the first level, standing water started to spread out and flooded out many standing. There were some creative fans that took any resources they could to make shelter, including a fan who took a cardboard box and sat inside a program stand.

I do applaud NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway for working hard to get the race in that evening. With the new Air Titan, once rain stopped we could have started racing almost a full hour earlier. That was some of the best racing I had seen in years and was a memorable race for many fans, as the reigning most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr won the race for a second time.

Racing in the rain seems easy, seems like a great idea to get the race in the day it is scheduled and within the timeframe television partners have agreed upon. There are several reasons why NASCAR cannot race in the rain, at least right now.

First, rain tires are costly to bring to every track where they are calling for potential storms. Right now Goodyear brings tires for the complete weekend including multiple sets for practice/qualifying and race day, average of around 12 sets per a team. Now take that times the number of competitors in the Cup series, 43, that is 516 sets of tires (each set including four tires). If you were to bring rain tires for each event take this number and times it by two, and that is 1,032 sets of tires (4,128 tires) which Goodyear would need to bring in case of weather. That is an expensive cost because you have to include the cost of multiple tractor-trailers, the fuel for those trailers, the personal to drive those haulers, and then the time & cost of switching the tires from dry to rain tires.

Another reason, which a lot of people have not thought about, is the pit crews. These teams of seven change four tires and fuel the car within fourteen seconds. The reason why they can do this is not only because they spend hours practicing their technique, but they perform in a dry environment. A dry environment gives these team members better traction to run around the car, carrying weight ranging from twelve to forty pounds, depending on if you are carrying the jack, fuel, or tires. If the area around the car was wet, these crew members would more than likely slip, fall, and injury themselves. This is one of the main reason NASCAR and teams pay extra attention to how dry pit road is after a rain shower.

Furthermore, a wet pit stall is not just a problem for the over the wall guys, but an issue for drivers who have to stop on a dime. Unlike in road racing, where their pit stalls are a little bit bigger and are covered, pit stalls in NASCAR are very tight and are open to the elements. While at Bristol Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon came over the radio and told his spotter to tell NASCAR that pit road was still wet. NASCAR started the race without resolving this issue, which within fifty laps there was a competition caution and the drivers had to deal with a moist pit road.

I look forward to seeing the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race tomorrow at Martinsville, rain free. Brian France made a smart move by getting on the ball with the track drying equipment, but we need no rain on race weekends. Weather we have all the equipment or a system similar to baseball where a tarp covers the entire field, in our case track, rain still pushes the schedule back.

It would be interesting to see some day a dome the covers the entire track and grandstands, so no matter if it is raining or snowing, the race could occur. There are some races and motorsports events that already occur inside a venue, such as monster trucks and arena racing, but proper ventilation would need to occur. I know this wouldn’t really work for a superspeedway or even a mile and half, nevertheless how about tracks like this weekend at Martinsville or Bristol or Richmond. Bristol would be an easy one to convert into an indoor arena because of how tall and close everything is, only issue being sound.

Big idea I know. What are your thoughts on the future of racing in the rain? Tell me on Twitter – @DECABrad – or on my Facebook page -> https://www.facebook.com/BradleyCarpenter247.

Brad Carpenter