NASCAR official comments following multiple incidents in the rain at Circuit of the Americas
Over the weekend, NASCAR visited Circuit of the Americas. In their debut at the 3.4-mile road course, the series was handed the challenge of racing in wet conditions.
Rain racing has been in NASCAR, for awhile. However, it’s rarely seen simply due to the limited number of road course events on the schedule, years prior.
Sunday’s race in the Texas Grand Prix saw heavy rains. And a long straight-away with standing water created a dangerous scenario. Spray from the cars created limited visibility. It led to two major accidents, back to back.
First, Bubba Wallace drove into the back of Kevin Harvick as Harvick checked up for an accident ahead of him. Wallace was still in the throttle when he drove into the back of Harvick and lifted his machine off the ground.
Many drivers were vocal about unsafe conditions following the rain race over the weekend. NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick said after COTA that, “he’s never felt more unsafe in his entire racing career.”
Moments after the first crash, a second crash occurred. Martin Truex Jr drove into the back of Michael McDowell. As his damaged machine rolled down the backstretch, Cole Custer drove right into the back of him.
The two accidents were near identical. NASCAR put safety equipment on the track and they were able to dry off the track enough to safely continue the event.
In stage three, heavier rain returned. NASCAR was forced to red flag the race and they eventually called the race, before it’s advertised distance.
NASCAR details why the race was called early
“We obviously had the really bad situations on the back-straight, Scott Miller told Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
“We tried our best to use the air-titans to keep that straight-away cleaned off so there would be some increased visibility for the drivers.”
“As we go back going, the rain let us a little bit and they were sorta of strung out under green flag conditions. We thought everything looked fine.”
“As the rain started to pick up and after a cycle of pit stops, a bunch of cars were bunched up again together. We deemed that visibility was getting to a condition that we didn’t want to continue with.”
“We put the jets and the air-titans out there after we red flagged it to see if we could make any headway. But, the rain was coming down too hard for us to feel good about having another restart with everybody bunched up together and compromised visibility.”
Improving future NASCAR rain races
“We have certainly gotten some and I’m sure we’ll continue to get driver feedback, all week long,” Miller said of rain racing moving forward.
“One thing everybody needs to cognizant of is this racing in the rain is new to the teams, drivers and it’s new to NASCAR. When we’re in the tower managing a regular weekend we have an incredible amount of people, with so much experience to draw from. That’s kind of the foundation of what we do.”
“We’re all learning about what we need to do in the rain. We’re already looking at things to potentially cut down spray from the cars. I’m not sure where we’ll get with that.”
“I know there’s other series around the world that race in the rain and have for a long time, I’m sure they’ve experimented with a lot of things. We haven’t seen anything unique in any of that.”
“But, we’re going to do our homework and see if there’s any way we can kind of cut some of that down for future rain races. We’re all learning about how to race in the rain,” Miller concluded.
Could this event lead to more or less rain racing?
“It’s a huge challenge. Road course, we usually officiate from an elaborate camera system because you cant see all the way around the track. The more we do it, the better prepared we’re going to be.”
Beyond road courses, NASCAR recently conducted a rain tire test on an oval via Martinsville Speedway.
“We’re probably the only motorsports in the world that’s maybe a little bit on the fence about racing in the rain. It’s huge to get the race in when the race is scheduled.”
Is there a possibility that NASCAR stops racing in the rain?
“We haven’t started those discussions,” Miller said on Monday.
“So, I’m not prepared to comment on that. There’s a lot of people that will weigh in on that. But, I think us learning and learning how to do it better is more the path that we’re on currently.”