Currently NASCAR will only race in the rain on road courses.  The tires used on oval tracks are “slicks” with no treads of any kind and cannot grip the wet surface on the track.

In a test that is no joke, NASCAR has scheduled a test at the half mile “paperclip” known as Martinsville Speedway on April 1 to study the feasibility of running races on oval tracks during wet weather conditions. 

Martinsville Speedway is the next track on the 2021 racing schedule.  It is also the location for the latest test of the “Next Gen” car set to hit the tracks in the 2022 season.

Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson will drive his number five car and Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher will drive his number 17 car in the test.

NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell spoke on test and potential success saying, “I think the overall goal is anything we can do to speed up the drying process, regardless of the technology, to allow us to get back to racing more quickly is a benefit to the fans.  We’re always trying to innovate, and you saw that with what we’ve done around the track-drying system and that’s worked out well. We’ve always looked at what’s the next iteration. If you’ve looked at what the teams have been able to do with more road racing coming into the fold, the idea of short tracks and could we work with Goodyear to find a tire that would allow us to get back to racing sooner under wet-weather conditions.”

Currently when a track surface is wet NASCAR must depend on air dryers to get the track dry when the rains come to a track.  Even with several air dryers on the track, it can take several hours to get a track in racing condition.

Both the Xfinity and Cup Series used wet weather tires during the Roval race at Charlotte Motor Speedway last year.  The use of those tires on the oval portion of the course prompted a conversation between O’Donnell and NASCAR president Jim France of “what if’s”.  “We had a conversation with Goodyear and they’re on board as well, so I think that’s why the timing just lined up for us of let’s try to innovate, let’s try this and see what we can learn,” said O’Connell. 

O’Connell added, “I think at this point, we’re not talking about if it’s actually raining.  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.”

While noting that it is still too soon to tell, O’Donnell said, “too early to tell, but I would say if this worked and we felt comfortable with it — and that would be both Goodyear and reaction from the drivers and teams — this is something we would look to implement as quickly as we could.  We all know that if we can deliver a race on time or shorten those delays, that’s a benefit to the entire industry.”

featre photo credit: Goodyear Facebook page