NASCAR will hold a test session Thursday at Martinsville Speedway to look at the possibility of using rain tires on NASCAR’s shorter ovals. They are not discussing racing in the rain but being able to race on a wet track which should shorten rain delays.
Officials for NASCAR are already at the Martinsville track testing the Next Gen car with Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota manufacturers.
Kyle Larson will participate in the test with the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Chris Buescher will drive the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. The test will be conducted on a dampened track.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, described the purpose of the test as a step toward determining if the use of rain-tires can decrease the length of rain delays.
“I think the overall goal is anything we can do to speed up the drying process, regardless of the technology, to allow us to get back to racing more quickly is a benefit to the fans,” O’Donnell said. “We’re always trying to innovate, and you saw that with what we’ve done around the track-drying system and that’s worked out well. We’ve always looked at what’s the next iteration. If you’ve looked at what the teams have been able to do with more road racing coming into the fold, the idea of short tracks and could we work with Goodyear to find a tire that would allow us to get back to racing sooner under wet-weather conditions.”
O’Donnell emphasized that the intent is not to be able to race in the rain but to be able to shorten lengthy rain delays and return to competition quicker.
“I think at this point, we’re not talking about if it’s actually raining, “he said. “It’s more so, can we get back more quickly than the track being completely dry, which is what we require now. That’s part of the test, looking at where’s the limit, where we would feel comfortable for the drivers. We want this to be safe, so that will be part of this test — talking to the drivers, what are they comfortable with — then obviously talking to Goodyear and (director of racing) Greg Stucker and his team about how they feel and how the tire performs, what if any tweaks we could make to that tire coming out of Martinsville, so there’s a lot that we’re hoping to learn here in terms of grip levels. Each track is unique, so this is something we’ll have to look at for multiple venues.”
There is no timetable for how quickly the use of these rain-tires could be implemented at various short tracks as the decision will not be made solely by NASCAR but will be discussed with the team owners, drivers and Goodyear.
“Too early to tell, but I would say if this worked and we felt comfortable with it — and that would be both Goodyear and reaction from the drivers and teams — this is something we would look to implement as quickly as we could,” O’Donnell said. “We all know that if we can deliver a race on time or shorten those delays, that’s a benefit to the entire industry.”