Ryan Newman and wife Krissie, waiting out the rain at Watkins Glen International (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
By Mike Mulhern
Goodyear has stock car racing rain tires, first designed and tested 15 years ago here. And they've been used by NASCAR, during a Cup exhibition in Japan and in a Nationwide race at Montreal two years ago.
And NASCAR teams have expertise and equipment to defog windshields and for wiping rain off the glass.
However the track itself must have adequate drainage to make it race-worthy for Cup drivers.
Sunday's 'wet' was just a long, nagging drizzle, not a Montreal-type downpour; so Goodyear's rain tires would have worked well here Sunday…if the track itself were designed to keep puddles from forming hydroplaning spots.
And the Goodyear rain tires themselves might need to be updated….and Cup teams would need to do some 'wet work' to become better prepared for racing in the rain.
"Hopefully we get the rain tires (for Cup)," Printup says.
"But we are on the docket (at ISC) to have this track repaved during the next two years.
"So we are literally right now talking with our track engineer about repaving and what we're going to do and getting some estimates."
"But this is a $15 million to $20 million project.
"However, it's like everything else – like painting your house – you've got to paint your house. And paving our track is like 'painting' our house.
"We've got to get that done so we can get the rain tires on the cars…so we don't have to do this on Mondays.
"This is two out of three years for me that we've had to do it on Monday. And that's not good for the fans."
Sunday's weather, all in all, was just about 'perfect' for racing in the rain, if need be. Not raining hard enough to really aggravate fans already here.
"And we were sooo close," Printup said. "We were probably within 30 minutes of going (green) Sunday.
"So hopefully we can get this track repaved and get the rain tires on the (Cup) cars, and be able to race in this stuff."
Some Cup men, like Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, say they are okay with having to race in light rain such as here Sunday. But Knaus says in that situation he would like to be able to make the call himself when to put on 'rain' tires or 'dry' slicks, rather than NASCAR executives making that call. At Montreal, in the rainy Nationwide race two years ago, redflagged the race to allow everyone to put on rain tires at the same time. Knaus said he would prefer more leeway for Cup teams in making that call.
This particular Goodyear rain tire has been raced twice by NASCAR, at Montreal and at Road America. It was designed in 2009 and tested by Juan Pablo Montoya at a special wet test track in Texas.
A sideline issue to the rain – the Nationwide tour here was prepared to use rain tires Saturday, and it's prepared to use rain tires next weekend on the Montreal road course.
However the Nationwide race Saturday was relatively action-free….with some teams likely trying to keep their road racing stockers in one piece for the Montreal race. That could be one unintended effect of scheduling two Nationwide road course events back to back.