Martinsville Speedway hosted a rain test test for NASCAR; The first test of an oval rain tire since 1995
On Thursday, NASCAR visited the Martinsville Speedway for a very unique test session. They dropped water on the racing surface to test rain tires on an oval track, the first test of it’s kind since 1995.
Watch the NASCAR rain tire test video below.
Much like dirt racing, rain racing is an equalizer. Drivers are unable to put the throttle down, taking engine dollars out of the picture.
Last week, the dirt track at Bristol Motor Speedway saw the new teams like Trackhouse Racing and 23XI Racing toward the front of the field for most of the day. Suarez finished 4th on the dirt, his 2nd best finish was a 15th at Homestead. This would create more of the same.
But, full fledged rain racing wasn’t really part of the test. Instead, NASCAR just dampened the race track.
The idea is that NASCAR wouldn’t have to wait for the track to be completely dry to go racing. This would significantly decrease the length of rain delays and/or allow NASCAR to get the show in when it would previously be postponed.
So, NASCAR gave it a shot on Thursday. They brought in a water truck to create the situation…
“We’re in evaluation right now,” NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation John Probst said Thursday afternoon.
“I would say that we could have come in here today and had a complete disaster and walked away from it saying, ‘no, this can’t be done.’ I think what we learned today was positive for sure. I think that we just need a little bit of time to go through all the data to figure out what are the next best steps.”
He added, “I would say that we continue the journey, and it looks positive for now. Today could have ended it, but it certainly didn’t do that. I feel like everyone involved felt like it was a very positive test, but it’s still fresh and certainly a very, very good first step.”
The tires were actually the bigger tire that will be used next year for the NASCAR Next Gen chassis.
“We had some Sonoma compounds and then actually some Martinsville compounds that were carved to the tread profile that we’d anticipate the 18-inch tire (for the Next Gen car) would be molded to,” Probst said.
“So we tested different compounds and different tread layout. Like I’ve said, we still have a lot of data to go through, but the one thing that’s pretty clear is, either of the treads versus a slick seems to dry the track much quicker.
“We’ve got to go through the driver feedback and some of the friction data to make concrete conclusions with respect to the treads and compounds, but I would say on a whole, the rain tires that we have today worked pretty well.”
“If we decide that this is viable option for us this year, that is the most likely candidate just because we have those and those are in existence today. For now, it’s looking pretty positive but I caveat it all with we’ve got a lot of data to look through.”
Thursday’s test came in the middle of a rare off-weekend for the sport.
“First off, thanks to those guys for making the time to do the test. We’re going into an off weekend, so certainly the guys at Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing and their crews, this is a week that a lot of guys look forward to getting some time away, and they were nice enough to work with us through this project.”
“Very positive feedback from both drivers, and very similar feedback from both drivers. Could definitely feel the differences in what we put on the car for them. … I think in general they — like everyone else there — were pleasantly surprised with what can be done on a wet track.”
“It’s certainly ambitious,” Probst said. “… I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but there’s a lot of data we need to go through.”
Probst added, “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.”
Kyle Larson comments after rain tire test
As far as the driver is concerned, it passed the test. Larson says the tires could be used, right now.
“I don’t really have much wet-weather experience, so it was kind of cool to figure that out,” Larson said.
“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 where it would start drying.”
“So it was pretty fun and yeah, 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.”