All three of NASCAR‘s top series are heading to Texas for a tripleheader at Circuit of the Americas. The schedule calls for several practices and qualifying sessions, starting on Friday, May 21, but there are concerns about the weather. The weather forecast calls for potential lightning delays.
According to WillyWeather, the temperatures will be in the high 70s to the low 80s all weekend. There is a 50% chance of rain on Friday, a 50% chance of thunderstorms on Saturday, and a 40% chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. If the lightning strikes within eight miles of the track, NASCAR will throw the red flag for at least 30 minutes.
— Frontstretch (@Frontstretch) May 20, 2021
Lightning striking in the area could disrupt a very tight schedule. Both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series race on Saturday, the same day that the Cup Series drivers take part in their practice sessions. Sunday also features multiple time-sensitive events, including the Cup Series qualifying and the first-ever Cup race at COTA. The Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Series also has multiple races on Saturday and Sunday.
NASCAR Can Race in the Rain at Road Courses
The three races at Circuit of the Americas take place on the road course, so the drivers can continue competing if there are showers. NASCAR has a special setup and rules for road course events that may take place under wet-weather conditions.
Prior to the green flag waving, the crew chiefs can elect to install rain tires if there is a damp-weather start. If they elect to take this option, the teams must also activate the rear flashing light and install the windshield wiper. If NASCAR declares a wet-weather start, the teams must install their rain tires.
According to the NASCAR Rule Book, “a wet start means that the entire racing surface is covered in moisture; a damp start means that the track has areas of moisture, but that other areas are dry. The race director can also declare the conditions not race-ready if heavy downpours cause puddles and impaired visibility.”
Wet-Weather Conditions Could Mix With an Unfamiliar Track to Create Chaos
Damp-weather starts add a level of uncertainty to the road course races, especially when some teams stick with their regular tires instead of installing the rain tires. Now the drivers will potentially deal with inclement weather while making their first-ever laps at an unfamiliar track.
Prior to the weekend schedule, multiple drivers stated that there could be “chaos” on the very first turn. Austin Dillon, in particular, stated that the turn falls away from the driver and goes uphill before flattening out.
“Definitely going to be some chaos. If you miss Turn 1 at the bottom, that outside lane is probably really going to check up.” Dillon explained during a press conference that Heavy attended. He also compared the unique track to the Daytona Road Course.
The iRacing event on Wednesday provided a brief glimpse of the chaos that could unfold, albeit in a virtual manner. Now, however, the drivers will take on the real course for the very first time while dealing with some potential rain in the area.
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