Let’s Go Racing: How Weather Affects NASCAR Races

Weather can have a big impact on race conditions for teams.

We have all heard the jokes that NASCAR isn’t a sport and all the drivers do is turn left, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

In additions to the physics, engineering, and strategy the weather plays a big impact on race conditions for the teams.

Weather affects NASCAR races in these ways

Let’s start with the track temperature, which can affect how the cars handle on the track.

“The hotter the asphalt, the slicker it is. Which means less overall grip and slower speeds,” said NASCAR driver David Ragan.

On the flip side, when the air and track temperatures are cooler, crews can add tape to the grill which affects how much air gets into the engine.

“The more tape you run the hotter the engine will get because you’re closing the amount of air.  It also gives you more downforce on the front and less drag, so it should run faster,” said Crew Chief Gene Kennon.

Adding tape has the potential to give teams an advantage, but it comes with a big risk.

“You have to balance that and the engine temperatures because you have to run the whole race and you can’t burn your engine up,” said Kennon.

Another weather factor that teams must deal with on a race weekend is the wind.

“A lot of times we pay attention to the wind, which directions it’s going because that affects how fast you are getting into a corner. If you are driving into a headwind, you aren’t going to get into get into that corner quite as good,” said Ragan.

This is something South Central Georgia native David Ragan had to deal with in practice earlier this weekend when sustained wind speeds were around 20 miles per hour.

“Here at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the wind was blowing pretty hard down the back straightaway so diving into turn one, the car felt a little more grippy probably a little slower going into turn one. Versus turn three where you are with that tail wind and you are going in a lot faster,” said Ragan.

“Out of everything that the weather impacts over a NASCAR race weekend. The tires are almost what is most important. Not only can the temperatures change the air pressure in the tires, but they don’t have tread, which is why you can’t race them, in the rain.

Which is why you’ll see Pat Suhy at the track each race weekend, who not only monitors weather and track conditions for Chevrolet drivers but times out if and when rain will come during a race.

“If you know when it’s going to rain, your strategy might play into that. You can decide whether you want to maybe stay out and stretch your fuel a little bit, rather than coming in coming in and getting caught a lap down when the rain does start, ” said Manager of Chevrolet NASCAR Competition Pat Suhy.

When the track is dry and the cars are rolling, crews also have to look at the track temperatures and decide which pressures to keep in their tires based on how their car is handling.

As the race goes on, tires heat up and expand.

If crews start tire pressures off too high, they risk blowing a tire on the track.

These are just a few of the hundreds of variables race teams have to consider while preparing their cars for this weekend’s race.

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