Racing returns this weekend after a two-week hiatus for the Tokyo Olympics. But what can NASCAR drivers expect from the weather at Watkins Glen International Speedway?
Unfortunately, rain looks to be in the forecast. According to AccuWeather, there’s a chance for thunderstorms right around 3 p.m., when the green flag drops. The National Weather Service, on the other hand, says there’s a 40% chance of rain and thunderstorms after 4 p.m. Either way, rain on the track means bad news for NASCAR drivers.
“Unless we’re on a road course, we can’t race in the rain because our tires are slick tires; it’s essentially like driving on the road with four bald tires in the rain, you just slide,” said professional stock car driver Matt Tifft. He spoke to AccuWeather in a 2019 interview about racing conditions.
AccuWeather also reported that if it rains in the middle of a race, the whole thing will be put on hold until the track dries. But that doesn’t help NASCAR drivers who’ve gotten in the zone.
“When we do have rain delays, it makes it harder because you’re getting into a rhythm of what you do on race day,” Tifft said. “[When the] rain comes down and there’s a delay to the initial start of the race, it’s kind of aggravating, but you just need to be patient.”
How Could The Heat Affect The NASCAR Race At The Watkins Glen International Speedway?
Unfortunately for NASCAR drivers at Watkins Glen International Speedway, the high temp for Sunday’s race is 87 degrees, per Weather Underground. Aside from the rain, high heat is one of the worst conditions to race in because of how it affects the track and drivers.
“In NASCAR, track temperature is everything,” The Weather Channel’s Kait Parker told NASCAR’s website. “If the track is too hot, the oil seeps out of the asphalt and it makes it greasy and it’s tough for the tires to grip. If it’s too cold, the tires can be too hard, and then you also have a problem driving. You want a happy medium.”
Drivers can also start to get miserable inside the car during hot days. AccuWeather reports that sometimes the inside of a NASCAR car reaches over 130 degrees.
“Your car can feel about perfect when it’s 60 F and overcast, but when it’s 95 F and slick and slippery, your car might not be that great,” Tifft said to AccuWeather. For him, 60s and overcast is the perfect racing combination.
“If we have a 60-degree, overcast day, not only do we see an increase in horsepower and speeds the cars are traveling, but the grip level goes up by quite a bit because the tires are really reaching their maximum threshold,” Tifft said.
Today’s race at Watkins Glen International Speedway kicks off the last four races of the Cup Series regular season. The next race takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, followed by a track in Michigan, and the close of the season in Daytona.