NASCAR to test rain tires at Martinsville (Update)

Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, commented on the wet tire oval test Tuesday during “SiriusXM Speedway” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Stucker told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “historically there has been a lot of concern, us probably leading the charge, around racing in wet conditions at oval tracks.”

The concern was related to higher speeds on ovals than road courses. But NASCAR showed last year it can run in wet conditions at the Charlotte Roval, which combines portions of the track’s oval with an infield road course section.

“The Martinsville test was our first genuine step of trying to identify if there are certain wet conditions on an oval track where we would be comfortable actually racing, either getting a race started under somewhat wet conditions, or returning to racing on a damp wet race track,” Stucker said.

John Probst, NASCAR senior vice president of racing innovation, told that it would be “certainly ambitious” to have everything in place to run wet weather tires, if needed, this year.

“I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but there’s a lot of data we need to go through,” he said. “We need to not only look at can it be done, but what tracks lie ahead, and there’s a whole lot of different variables that get brought into the mix, including the weather. … I wouldn’t say no, but I certainly wouldn’t sign us up for it either — just yet.”

“I don’t really have much wet weather experience, so it was kind of cool to figure that out,” Kyle Larson said in a video posted to social media by NASCAR. “Honestly, didn’t drive way different. You could still slow down good, turn good. Drive-off was easy to spin your tires, but other than that, it was kind of fun to chase the grip throughout the portions when it would start drying.

“So it was pretty fun. I think they’ve got a pretty good product that we could honestly start racing with right away if we needed to on these short tracks.”

April 1, 2021 

NASCAR competition officials said they plan to hold a test session Thursday at Martinsville Speedway to assess the feasibility of using rain tires on the circuit’s shorter ovals.

Plans for the test were announced Wednesday, with Kyle Larson scheduled to drive the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Chris Buescher set to drive the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford on a dampened track. NASCAR officials are currently at the .526-mile Virginia venue for testing of the Next Gen car for the 2022 Cup Series, with Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota all putting their manufacturer-specific models on the track for the first time.

NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell said the test’s intent is to explore a wet-weather tire’s short-track potential, with the goal of returning to racing sooner in inclement conditions. Martinsville is the shortest paved track on the Cup Series schedule; O’Donnell indicated that if the test yields encouraging results that competition officials could explore using the tire in damp conditions at flatter tracks up to approximately 1 mile in length, such as Phoenix and New Hampshire.

After an initial shakedown of the two cars Thursday, test organizers plan to wet the track to gauge traction levels, using feedback from Buescher and Larson to evaluate the performance of the tire, which has different characteristics than the current rain tire for road courses. In a twist of scheduling fate, Wednesday’s weather forecast calls for significant rainfall at Martinsville with clearing on Thursday’s test date. Rather than test during a Wednesday downpour, however, competition officials opted to stick with Thursday to test the tires under controlled conditions.


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