Saturday, August 02, 2008

On the verge of history

The NAPA 200 Nationwide Series race at Circuit d' Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, ran eight laps before it started raining. They ran under caution for several lap while the pit crew readied the rain equipment.

For the first time, NASCAR is using rain tires in competition. The teams also added windshield wipers. ESPN touts this as "history in the making."

We can't be sure that it's going to be good history. Even when lighter cars, such as the ones used in Grand Am or Formula 1 racing, run in the rain, the racing isn't much more than it is while running under caution. These cars will be even harder to slow going into the corners, as they are much heavier than what we are used to seeing in the rain. Even with rain tires, we will see a lot of cars sliding off the track.

You can tell this is NASCAR's first time racing in the rain. What was supposed to be a three minute stop took much longer. You can tell that they aren't very enthusiastic about running in the rain, and that is understandable, as very few drivers have any experience in the rain at all. Also, NASCAR will make the call as to when to change back to slicks, if the situation comes up, rather than letting the teams make the decision.

They are running more laps under caution. This also makes sense, as the tires, though new, have been in storage for seven years. The rubber needs to be heated some, so it can loose some of the stiffness of age. But it is still clear that NASCAR is not ready for a race in the rain.

At this point, I am curious as to whether they are just going to drive around under caution until the track is dry.

Scott Pruitt, Brad Coleman, Jaque Villeneuve, Max Papis, Patrick Carpentier, Boris Said, and Ron Fellows, as well as whatever road course ringers we may have missed, all have experience racing in the rain, and most of these drivers are near the front anyway. We may see some action from them, but from the NASCAR regulars, with the exception of Marcus Ambrose, perhaps, we will see a learning experience as they try to hold their positions, find the rain line, and try not to spin out.

Hopefully, we will soon see how this experiment works out. Keep in mind--making history isn't always a good thing.

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