Last week I was speaking about how Talladega was the original wild card race of the playoffs. This week, there are so many wild cards in play that some drivers would want a new deck. Could there be any more elements that will make today’s action that much more difficult?
To start with, some of the best drivers that are in the playoffs, and in the sport for that matter, are below the cutoff for the next round.
That means a guy like Kyle Busch, the defending champion, could see his title defense come to a close in another 400 miles. Others, see it as their best chance to steal a spot, and make others fight for a new position of getting in. Meanwhile, there’s a few that are welcoming the Roval, since they are so good when the cars are going left and right. After all, one guy has won the last three road courses in a row, dating back to Watkins Glen a year ago.
Everyone has the same opportunity, but now everyone also has an even playing field because of an element that normally NASCAR wouldn’t even consider.
Just look at yesterday afternoon, or should we say last night. Once the skies opened up, the water flowed.
Yes, NASCAR does race in the rain when it comes to road courses. But, it got to the point the rain was so bad, it had a feeling that a boat or the Arc was coming through. The ponds that formed made the track completely unsafe for even the rain tires, and then as the hours wore thin, lighting became an issue. No one could see in the infield, and the glare from the lights and even the huge screen made vision nearly impossible.
And that was the Xfinity drivers, who have experienced racing in the rain before. Cup…a new experience.
The forecast is calling for it, and it is something that the Cup Series has never experienced. But, they are prepared for it. The Goodyear Eagle rain tires, introduced in 2009 after the Xfinity Series used the previous rain tires in Montreal, is quite a bit different than it’s slick brother, and even more different than the previous tire. Keep in mind, when Montreal went rain racing, the tires used on the cars were introduced…in 1995. So how exactly did the tires get to be used over a decade later? The tires were kept in a temperature controlled environment, away from extreme heat and cold that can cause weather cracking, so they were literally as if they had rolled off the assembly line.
But, the new edition looks a lot more like a tire that Goodyear puts out currently for the consumer. A normal Goodyear slick is 3/32nds in depth for tread, which in this weather is pretty much useless.
The Goodyear rain tires, designated with a white sidewall and blue lettering, are in total 6/32nds in depth, with the treading measuring the same distance as the normal slick. But, even with these on, the rain provides a hazard for the entire field. These will grip in wet weather, but when it gets too wet, they will hydroplane, as we saw Saturday. At the same time, if a break in the weather comes, these tires are not the best on the dry surface. It’s a catch-22 since NASCAR declares if a start is going to be dry, damp, or wet.
This was an issue in Daytona since many teams didn’t understand what the “damp” condition meant. Now, it’s clear…wet equals a wet surface across the entire track, whereas damp means only areas of the track are wet.
The start of the race it is NASCAR’s choice how the cars are set up. Wet start means all cars have the rain tires on, along with the flashing lights in the rear window, and the wipers. But, a damp start means that the crews can choose to start on slicks or treads, but the lights must be in, while wipers are optional.
I’d say based on what is coming, we are going to have a wet start, and wet afternoon.
As if this elimination race couldn’t get any more intense, now NASCAR had to make an emergency call, and the Charlotte officials brought in extra lighting for the infield part of the course after last night’s troubles, but even with an hour earlier start, could it make a difference?
This race two years ago saw the top two collide, taking one another out, and the guy in third winning. A year ago, the leader locked up the brakes and hit the first turn barrier. But, drove through the field, and won.
This time, whomever wins will have to go through the field, through the ponds, and the rain drops, in order to take the checkered flag.
We’re not dusting off this race…it’s more like squeegee off.