To date, NASCAR hasn’t used rain tires on ovals; They’re going to test it
Rain tires were last tested on a short track in 1995. Ironically, that test was conducted at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.
Things have come full circle. On Thursday, NASCAR officials will wet Martinsville Speedway an give it another shot.
Rain tires made their debut in 2008 during an Xfinity Series race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. Currently, the tires are only used on road courses.
Last year, the rain hit the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That course is part road-course and part oval. It surfaced the question of whether or not the tires could be used on smaller ovals.
NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell comments
“Just thinking about the what-ifs and how do we get back to racing, and Martinsville became that focus for us,” O’Donnell recalls. “We had a conversation with Goodyear and they’re on board as well, so I think that’s why the timing just lined up for us of let’s try to innovate, let’s try this and see what we can learn.”
“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.”
Rain tires to get the show rolling
“I think at this point, we’re not talking about if it’s actually raining,” O’Donnell 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.”
If the test is successful, you can look for the new tires to be put into use fairly soon.
“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.”
Rain tire test at Martinsville
Officials will wet the track on Thursday. The test will use a rain tire that’s different from the tire used in road course rain racing.
Kyle Larson is scheduled to drive the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the test. He’ll be joined by Chris Buescher who drives the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
“It just happens to fall on April Fools’ Day. You can’t make that up,” O’Donnell says with a laugh. “But no, this is a real thing and a real test, and we’ll be happy to report back April 2nd on how it went.”