NASCAR has recently announced its new rule package for 2015, which - among many - includes rain tires and all sorts of accessories to be deployed in case of wet conditions at road courses. Sounds great on the surface, but the ultimate question is: why?
Contrary to the well-established belief, rain and NASCAR are not antonyms, strictly speaking. It is, however, very much apparent that high-speed, paved ovals are not meant to be flagged green under pouring skies. Since the top category of American stock car racing went all-paved and virtually all-circle it also eliminated any chances of meeting the sour end of weather under competitive conditions.
Surely, when NASCAR was still reigning at red clay short tracks, rain delays weren't necessarily a common feature unless spectators decided to spare their clothing from a pre-wash. And as gradually NASCAR left their roots behind for the promise of tens of thousands of spectators at 1.5-mile plus speedways is slowly wound up the middle finger for the weather gods.
Fast forward to years of the immediate past, somebody figured the second-tier NASCAR series (I refuse to call them at sponsor names as they keep changing) could at least try to race in wet conditions at road courses. The grand debut came at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Canada in 2008. Cars were equipped with rain tires, windshield wipers and it was a go.
In 2013, NASCAR took its truck series to a dirt track, rediscovering something that was long lost in the whirlwind of history. And now, for 2015, the top category decides to mandate windshield wipers, defogging devices and flashing rear lights to be equipped with the car at the start of the race with rain tires at the ready when going road racing - as it is now mandated at the second and third-tier series.
And I have a problem with that.
Currently, NASCAR has close to 40 races at about 30 different tracks annually. Out of these races, only two are held at road courses. The two other series have about the same rate of right-turners on the calendar, but I still can't understand why would they bother.
Road races are not too popular with NASCAR. Neither tracks are in the play-offs, nor they get a big audience in front of the TVs. The Association says the reason for the wet equipment is less rain delays. However, road courses make up about 5-6% of the whole season and out of the two races one is in California, where the chance of rain is practically 0%.
Not even just that, it has been fed through official channels for a while that NASCAR Gen7
will might feature real, working head and taillights, which seems absurd with the completely lit tracks.
So what's the fuzz with going to Watkins Glen in an anorak, carrying a torch everywhere?
I'm thinking United SportsCar Championship.
Now, that NASCAR has some sort connection to ALMS through IMSA by merging it with Grand-Am - for the best of both, I should add - it has now further means to open to new markets - especially to Europe.
With any sense of business, IMSA could try and experiment with putting a few competition stock cars on the grid as well that would upset American sportscar fans, but would draw in a great number of European interest.
Haas F1 Team reversed.
NASCAR cars at Daytona, Sebring, Indianapolis, Long Beach, CoTA, Montreal, Laguna Seca, etc. - alongside the prototypes and GT cars - would definitely fit in the best of the Carrera Panamericana traditions of the past, as well as the 1976 Le Mans 24 Hours when a Ford Torino and a Dodge Charger NASCAR stock car was entered.
IMSA has been toying with bringing the DTM/SuperGT extravaganza under its own wings by creating an American version of it, but some sources tell it is unlikely to happen despite all negotiations in advanced stages.
Can NASCAR be the missing link in that? Does the Association really think that all the revision of cars for road courses hold any water (pun intended)? Why would they care for one single race barely anyone watches when the early-season races get rained out more than often? Why would they be thinking about fully-functional headlights when they have perfectly-lit speedways? And why would IMSA want to create a DTM/SuperGT-alike series in the first place while TUSCC is still fresh? And what happens when it doesn't work out?
Whatever they are thinking of, I'm already craving to see stock cars with the rest of USCC in the rain at dusk.
NASCAR car under cover - FOX Sports
Daytona 24 Hours - FOX Sports
Ford Torino NASCAR - 24h-lemans.com
DTM/SuperGT - pulpaddict.com