This weekend, NASCAR's top two series, the Monster Energy Sprint Cup Series and the Xfinity Series, take to the historic road course in Watkins Glen, New York. Weather is one of the most unpredictable factors at the race, unique to the road course because the race will go on! All teams, including Team Penske, must be prepared to race in inclement conditions with a high-performance windshield wiper on their vehicle to fend off the threat of rain.
This year, however, the teams are better prepared than ever as Team Penske debuts the Bosch ICON wiper blades, the exclusive wiper blade of Team Penske. Bosch ICON wiper blades provide exceptional performance at high speed and optimum visibility in extreme weather conditions.
Yesterday, we spent a few moments with Greg Erwin, crew chief of the No. 22 Ford Mustang in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for Team Penske, who provided insight into the improvements in windshield wiper technology, as well as how teams prepare for racing in bad weather.
As neither the Cup Series nor Xfinity have any real wet weather rain experience, how do pit crews train for that eventuality? While the Cup cars haven’t really run a points race in the rain, the XFINITY cars have several times, most recently last year at Mid-Ohio. Almost that entire race was run in the rain. And for the pit crews, it’s just something you need to be aware of. Speed on pit road is still important, but when lap times slow down by several seconds on the track due to wet weather, having an 11.5 second stop or a 12.5 second stop isn’t as important. What’s important is those guys stay safe and get the work done on pit road.
I've noticed in the past that the wiper blades have a tendency to lift off the surface of NASCAR windshields at speed. How have you adjusted for that? We’ve noticed that it only really seems to happen in high speed sections of certain tracks. And when the speeds slow down due to rain and wet weather, you don’t have those high speed sections and you don’t have those problems. When the Bosch ICON windshield wiper is going, you just don’t have those issues.
What special training do the drivers go through to prepare for racing in the rain? There isn’t any way to train for that. Most of these drivers have never raced in the rain since most of them come from an asphalt oval or dirt oval background and you don’t race in the rain in those circumstances. There are a few drivers out there that come from a sports car background and they do race in the rain at times, but I don’t know how much they can relate to driving big heavy stock cars in the rain. Really, the only training you get is when you are in those race situations and what you learn lap to lap.
Are any special adjustments made inside the car to help in weatherproofing? Whenever we are going to a road course where we know there is potential for rain, there are some adjustments we make. But with the open windows of these cars, there is only so much you can do. Rain and water is going to get inside the car. The biggest thing is making sure we can keep the windshield clear with the Bosch ICON windshield wipers and the inside of the window doesn’t fog up for the driver. There are some electronics and other pieces we try and cover, but there is really only so much you can do.
Do you think that you'll have to deal with ponding on the racecourse in Watkins Glen? A lot of that depends on how hard and fast the rain falls. All of these tracks build to where hopefully you don’t have standing water on the racing surface, but if the rain is coming down quickly, it’s inevitable that it’s going to puddle up sometimes. All we can hope is that the water runs off and we can keep racing. If it happens you just need to adjust your line.
Will there ever come a time when NASCAR will be an all-weather sport? No. We run on too many ovals and running in the rain at the speeds our cars run on the ovals just wouldn’t work. You will see more running on road courses in the rain because these cars can handle that, but you just can’t build rain tires that will take speeds of 170 on 1.5-mile tracks. Those will always be dry track races.
Be sure to catch the Xfinity and Monster Energy action from Watkins Glen on NBC Sports. Check local listings for time and channel.