By AMANDA VINCENT
If rain comes to Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International Sunday during the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, the event will continue with teams putting rain tires on their cars and heading back onto the track.
If there is rain at The Glen, it’ll mark the first race in which NASCAR’s premier series competitors have competed in the rain. Rain tires were on hand for the race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway earlier this season, but they weren’t needed. Goodyear developed rain tires for the then-Winston Cup Series in the 1990s, but they’ve never been used for competition. The series did, though, did practice in the rain on rain tires once.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series, also racing at Watkins Glen on Saturday, does have experience racing on the rain on road courses. That circuit first put rain tires on its cars and faced Mother Nature at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada, in 2008. That series also has raced in the rain at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
“The fans obviously love it,” NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said of past Xfinity Series competition in the rain when the announcement was made of the possibility of the Sprint Cup Series racing under wet conditions. “If it’s a complete downpour, obviously we can’t race. But Goodyear is able to build a tire for Cup, and we talked to the teams and they said, `Let’s do it.’”
If the Sprint Cup Series does race in the rain Sunday, teams also will be required to put a windshield wiper, defogger and a rear flashing rain light on their cars.
There is a slight chance of rain Sunday for the area in which Watkins Glen International is located, but not a signficiant chance. Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. is hoping that rain does come, as he wants to take on The Glen in a stock car.
“I’ve never raced in the rain and a lot of guys haven’t and I’m excited about that opportunity to do that. That would be fun,” Earnhardt said recently on a Dirty Mo Radio podcast.
While he hasn’t taken on rain in NASCAR competition, Earnhardt did run a sports car in the rain during the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2004.
Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner