Could NASCAR try to race on wet pavement at short tracks in the near future?
The sanctioning body announced Wednesday that it would be testing out rain tires at Martinsville Speedway this week. NASCAR does not race on wet pavement at ovals. But if the test produces encouraging results, NASCAR has the goal of racing on wet pavement at tracks a mile or shorter and potentially cutting down the length of rain delays.
“I think at this point, we’re not talking about if it’s actually raining,” NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell said. “It’s more so, can we get back more quickly than the track being completely dry, which is what we require now. That’s part of the test, looking at where’s the limit, where we would feel comfortable for the drivers. We want this to be safe, so that will be part of this test — talking to the drivers, what are they comfortable with — then obviously talking to Goodyear and (director of racing) Greg Stucker and his team about how they feel and how the tire performs, what if any tweaks we could make to that tire coming out of Martinsville, so there’s a lot that we’re hoping to learn here in terms of grip levels. Each track is unique, so this is something we’ll have to look at for multiple venues.”
NASCAR has seen two of its seven Cup Series races in 2021 delayed by rain. The Daytona 500 was delayed for hours because of thunderstorms and Monday's Bristol dirt race won by Joey Logano was originally scheduled for Sunday.
Neither of those races would have been able to go any sooner if NASCAR had rain tires available for wet pavement. Daytona is 2.5-miles long and teams were already using special dirt tires for the Bristol race. That was the first Cup Series race on dirt since 1970.
NASCAR makes rain tires available for all races on road courses. And rain tires were utilized for the races at the Charlotte Roval in October. The Oct. 11 race was the first time the Cup Series had used rain tires in an official race.
The rain tire test comes as Chevy, Ford, and Toyota are all testing the new Cup Series car at Martinsville this week, though the possible introduction of rain tires on short tracks wouldn't necessarily happen along with the new car in 2022. O'Donnell said NASCAR would like to make the tires available "as quickly as we could." Could that be as early as sometime in 2021? We'll find out soon enough.
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