Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 is set to take the green flag just after 2:30pm on the road course fashioned out of the infield and traditional NASCAR track at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. According to The Weather Channel, the forecast for that time of day calls for a 70% chance for rain in the Charlotte, NC area. That, of course, means there is the possibility that the NASCAR Cup Series could compete in wet conditions during a race that will serve as a cutoff for the second round in the NASCAR Playoffs.
NASCAR calls for its teams to be prepared for racing in rainy conditions with windshield wipers attached to the cars and rain tires at the ready when the schedule offers up a road course event.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series ‘Drive for the Cure 250’ held on Saturday on the Charlotte ROVAL featured racing in the midst of heavy downpours throughout much of that event. As a result, it also featured drivers and cars from NASCAR’s second series spinning and crashing throughout much of the day. And due to the slow pace of the race and a red flag that halted the action for several minutes combined with a 3:30pm start time, the checkered flag waved under almost completely dark conditions.
At the end of the day, four drivers were eliminated from the Xfinity Series playoffs. Harrison Burton, Brandon Brown, Michael Annett, and Riley Herbst were cut from the championship hunt after taking part in a race that had standing water, hydroplaning, low visibility, and extreme penalties for off-course excursions due to wet grass and mud.
Are those the sort of conditions in which a championship cutoff should be made?
A number of racing series do in fact race in the rain on a somewhat regular basis. However, NASCAR never does on its oval tracks and has seen only rare instances in which its top-three divisions have competed on wet pavement on road circuits. But those other series, such as IMSA, have much lighter cars, wider tires, and more experienced drivers in those conditions.
Big, heavy NASCAR machines tip-toeing around in ponding water seems to be an awfully random circumstance in which to decide who advances to the next round of the playoffs and who does not, or for that matter who makes or misses the playoffs should a rainy race occur earlier in the season. Granted, that same argument could be made regarding the fact that races at Talladega Super Speedway and Daytona International Speedway, with their close-quarter pack racing, can also be very random as far as who gets collected in a big crash and who does not.
During Saturday’s Xfinity race, eventual winner A.J. Allmendinger even had his misgivings about driving in the horrendous conditions.
“Are they going to make us race in this?” Allmendinger said over his team radio at one point as the rain was pouring down. Then shortly afterward, he added, “The whole track is flooded. I can’t see. This is stupid.”
And keep in mind that Allmendinger probably has more experience on road courses, and thus in rain, than the other drivers in that race.
This is probably not the popular opinion but I have never been an advocate of NASCAR racing in wet conditions. I understand that those who bought tickets may be in the position of not seeing any racing if an event has to be pushed to the next clear day, as is the NASCAR policy for oval races. But something that is so random and unique to this form of racing seems to be a less-than-ideal way of determining championship contenders.
For me, I would rather wait until the next clear day than to watch drivers and cars who are not accustomed to racing the rain spend their day spinning, sliding, and crashing rather than racing and competing at full speed.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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