NASCAR‘s oval track racing is the most popular motorsport in America, but there’s one thing it hasn’t been able to beat: rain.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course was held in the rain last October 10.
(Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
While road course events can carry on in wet weather, races on ovals are often delayed from hours to days when the skies open up, due to concerns about safety in the high-speed turns.
TV and travel schedules are affected at major costs to those involved and fans pay the price, too. ESPN reported that tracks see a 10 percent drop in attendance the next race after a delayed one as a result of the negative experience.
To help address it, NASCAR held a test at Martinsville Speedway last week to see if its cars could use rain tires on the smaller ovals and the results were positive.
Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher put in a few laps on a dampened track using slicks, the road course wet-weather tires and several custom tires with different rubber compounds and grooves carved into them. Larson said it was a good experience, overall.
“I don’t really have much wet-weather experience, so it was kind of cool to figure that out,” Larson said in a video posted to Twitter. “Honestly didn’t drive way different. You could still slow down good, turn good. Drive-off was easy to spin your tires, but other than that, it was kind of fun to chase the grip throughout the portions where it would start drying. So it was pretty fun and yeah, I think they’ve got a pretty good product that we could honestly start racing with right away if we needed to on these short tracks.”
Along with allowing the series to compete in wet conditions, the grooved tires also appear to help dry a damp track after the precipitation ends quicker than cars running on slicks would.
NASCAR still needs to digest the data collected and hasn’t put a timetable on the possibility of holding an actual race in the rain, but the test has opened the door to trying it on the lower-speed half-mile and one-mile tracks.
“It’s certainly ambitious,” NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation John Probst told NASCAR.com.
“I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but there’s a lot of data we need to go through. We need to not only look at can it be done, but what tracks lie ahead, and there’s a whole lot of different variables that get brought into the mix, including the weather.”