Hudson O’Neal, Josh Richards, Bobby Pierce and Tim McCreadie comment on the idea of rain tires
I’m aware, you’re laughing already. Dirt racing fans hate the rain. But, what if the rain wasn’t such a horrendous thing for dirt tracks across the country.
On my way to Cherokee Speedway, I drove through 40 minutes of rain. Last year, I drove through 6 hours of rain en route to Atomic Speedway. In both situations, they were able to get the race in that night. But, how much of the grandstand attendance did they lose because fans thought it would be a rain out?
Depending on the track promoter, you might or might not get a refund when your local show rains out. Some fans aren’t willing to risk it.
What if there was a way to almost guarantee a green and a checkered? Rain or shine. Would more fans and drivers travel from longer distances with weather in the area. Or would more fans show up just to see a rain race for the sake of saying they saw one?
I think they would. F1, Indycar, karting, supercross and much more have been racing in the rain forever. In most of those situations, the fans are likely to pray for racing. The rain is a rare gem that levels the playing field, creates memories and presents a very unique show for the fans.
The drivers in those classes love the rain. It puts things more in the drivers hands. The lack of traction in the rain actually does about the same thing dirt racing does. It presents the out of control factor to the fans. Race cars are mostly out of control, in general. But, when rain falls, all the the exaggerations and sideways actions are magnified.
What does it take to race in the rain? In the classes mentioned above, not a whole lot. Typically, teams bolt on rain tires, soften the suspension for mechanical grip, put on a different helmet with an alternative tear off system and pop a duct over the air cleaner to prevent water from getting in the engine. Dirt late models already have a deflector to prevent mud from pounding the air cleaner. However, it would still have to be a bigger version of that.
What about the visibility? They race in the mud in motocross. For them, they use a rotating plastic sheet. It slides across and cleans as it rolls. It’s similar to the way they keep the roof cameras clean in other forms of motorsports.
I’m not going to say I want dirt racing in the rain just yet. But, I’m dying to say that. For now, I would absolutely love to see it tested.
What would they test for? A lot of things.
Tires: I think Hooiser would play the biggest role in a rain test. They would have to create and bring several tread compounds that are much larger and compare them side by side in a rain test. They would likely be open to that. How much money do they loose every year to rainouts and the lack of tire usage?
Track Prep: It’s also possible that different rain tires and tread work in different areas of the country. Ruts might also be an issue. The track might have to be prepped in an entirely different way to prevent deep ruts that bottom out the chassis. There’s a lot that would have to be learned from engineers, to track prep and even driving styles.
Let’s say the rain test works and they find all the solutions… None of us will ever drive across the country just to watch a a little rain fall on the speedway and cancel the show. That sounds like a very spectacular thing to me.
It’s 2018, here we are racing dirt late models indoors. Anything is possible.
How about the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series drivers? Some are certainly in favor. Others, well they don’t even want to hear about it…
Rain tires. Say everything is prepared for the rain. Would you like to see rain racing in a dirt late model?
“I think it would be cool,” Hudson O’Neal told RacingNews.co .
“I don’t think it would be very fun for the car owner. The car owner would have to pay for the stuff we tore up. But, from a drivers standpoint, I think it would be pretty cool.”
I’ve raced karts in the rain. There was always less carnage because there was less friction when you bounced into someone.
“Well y’all have plastic side pods that pop back out. I think it would be a lot of sheet metal work [that] would be the only downside. As a driver, I think it would be really really cool to do. Those karts are always really cool to race in the rain.”
You’ve raced karts in the rain before? It’s a blast.
“I have. Yes, it is.”
“It would take a lot to get these cars ready to race in the mud. These cars are very sensitive to water. On our wash day, we have to take a lot of precautions. It would definitely be a lot different than what we got right now.”
“I think it would be crazy,” Josh Richards told RacingNews.co .
You wouldn’t like that idea.
“You wouldn’t be able to see where you’re going.”
Say you had a different tear-off system, rain tires and other things.
“I don’t know if it would work. I think it’s crazy. I just don’t see how it’s possible. If it rains, we can’t even get off the race track.”
“The tires would have to change quite a bit. The cars would have to change quite a bit.”
“The tires, the cars… I mean I think you’d have to have a whole separate class to make it work.”
What do you think about racing in the rain? Say you had studded tires similar to a supercross bike.
“Yeah, I’d be fine with it. It would be pretty interesting,” Bobby Pierce told RacingNews.co .
“We’d have to put something on the air cleaner too to make sure the water doesn’t get in there. But yeah, that would be fun.”
“It comes down to the dirt. Even if you have a special tire it’s still going to be pretty hard to race. It’s happened to me before where I’ve taken the checkered flag and the rain came down so hard on the last lap … You know, I took the checkered, I went into turn 1 and slammed the wall head on. And I was already slowing down to like 5 mph when I took the checkered.”
“I don’t know, it would be pretty interesting if we could.”
Maybe they prep the track differently for a rain race?
“Well, if it’s going to rain they probably shouldn’t water it, at all. It’s kind of a chance you take. If you don’t water it, the track’s going to be really dry and you’re not going to have a good race.”
“But then if you water it and the rain comes then you’re going to get rained out more easily. Just rain’s a bad situation for all besides making corn grow.”
“I don’t think we could with our cars. They’re not made for that,” Tim McCreadie stated to RacingNews.co .
“Depending on how the race track is… Let’s say it’s a track that’s a little bit North. Let’s say Sharon Speedway, if it’s shiny dirt that’s really slick. Then it rains, you can’t really drive around on it. It’s like a sheet of ice so you would never go anywhere.”
If it started raining when it was like that. But what if it started at the beginning of the night or rained all day?
“Hooiser doesn’t have the tires capable for us to do it. It would have to be like an off-road truck type tire or something. We don’t have stuff that could grab the dirt like that.”
“I don’t know, I never really thought of it to be honest with you. Just because when the tracks get all soupy and muddy, you usually can’t go anywhere.”
“If you’ve ever watched the dirt motocross at Daytona… I mean, they don’t even get up to speed.”
But, it’s also exciting in a different way.
“Well yeah. If that’s what they made us do, I guess we’d have to do it. We just don’t have the capabilities with our tires to go anywhere. But, anything’s possible.”
But, you wouldn’t necessarily be in favor of it? If they had a rain tire?
“I don’t know. I’ve never done it. I really don’t know what I would say.”
“I mean, I’ve raced when it’s sprinkled during the race. It’s hard to see, it’s real hard to race. Just cause, for us, you can’t see. And the cars don’t handle real well.”
“It would be interesting, that’s for sure.”