How much of an unknown would a playoff elimination race held in the rain pose to the NASCAR Cup Series field? So much of one that veteran Martin Truex Jr. isn’t exactly certain of the best way to term it.
“Rain, I don’t know,” Truex said in a Thursday video conference. “I’ve never raced in the rain or in the wet, I guess you would call it.”
As if the test of competing on the treacherous Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval was not challenge enough, now the prospects include Mother Nature’s latest twist. Cue Hurricane Delta, which is on track for Friday landfall in the Gulf of Mexico with its remnants expected to take a northeasterly path toward the Charlotte area — just in time for this weekend’s NASCAR doubleheader.
The weekend will be capped by Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the finale of the Round of 12 in the Cup Series playoffs. Four drivers will be eliminated from championship contention after the 109-lap road-course event, which — barring downpour conditions and severe puddling — is prepared to be held in wet-weather conditions with treaded Goodyear rain tires at the ready.
“I’m gonna sneak in there and put a plug in the tunnel so it’ll just flood and that way we can’t race until Monday when the sun is out,” joked Clint Bowyer, who carries a 38-point deficit into Sunday’s race. “I think if it does rain, boy, all hell is gonna break loose. There’s a lot of unknowns. I can say that — unknowns for all the above. Look out if it rains.”
After landfall, Delta’s winds are expected to dissipate by the time the storm reaches North Carolina, but the chance of precipitation associated with the system sits at 80 percent throughout Sunday for the speedway’s vicinity, according to the National Weather Service.
Should NASCAR decide track conditions are wet but race-able, teams will each have four sets of rain-ready Goodyear radials for the nearly 250-mile event. The tires will be easily distinguishable by their tread patterns, but the sidewall lettering will be white instead of the usual yellow for NASCAR’s untreaded slicks for dry-weather conditions.
Rain would add just another wild-card element into a 2.28-mile circuit that’s tough enough to contend with in the dry, with tire-hopping chicanes, high-speed oval sections and scant run-off area in certain parts. Bowyer — who competed in a rainy Montreal road-course event in the NASCAR Xfinity Series years ago — said wet-weather conditions would turn the event into a race of survival, where teams hope their windshields won’t fog, their wipers will work and that visibility can be optimized.
“With the Roval being the track that it is, I don’t know how that’s going to look,” said Truex, adding he’ll lean on the rain-racing experience of James Small, his crew chief. “It’s already tough enough to stay on the track and make it to the end of that one, so I think if you make it to the wet, it’s going to be pretty wild. … Honestly, strategy-wise, there’s only so much you can do looking at the weather. For me, it’s just asking questions to the guys that have raced in the wet and be as prepared as I can if it comes to that.”