MARTINSVILLE, Va._ With a bleak forecast for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville, teams were forced to roll out the rain gear, car covers and heavy jackets. As the teams and fans wait and see what Mother Nature has in store for them, the strategy for Sunday’s race changes just a bit.
If the race can get underway, teams will be racing to the 250-lap mark, not the scheduled 500. Once the race reaches the halfway point the race is official and can be ended and a winner declared if rain hits the speedway. The hope is the entire race can be run without rain, but with thunderstorms in the forecast that appears to be a long shot. For many teams, a 500-lap race on Monday would be much better than a 250-lap rain-shortened event on Sunday.
“The only thing I hope is that I’d rather the thing wash out and run 500-laps tomorrow than trying to run to halfway today,” said Steve Letarte, crew chief for Jeff Gordon. “It’s the same for everybody. Especially at a track where we’re consistently good enough at to have cars that we can win races with, I’d rather have it go 500 laps. It’s not fair to the fans to only have a 250-lap race, but you can’t control the weather.”
While crew chiefs cannot control the weather, they can control the types of adjustments they make Sunday morning to prepare for the overcast and cool conditions that have set over the Martinsville Speedway.
“Last night we kind of looked at the weather and were trying to decide if we were going to race on Sunday or Monday,” Tony Stewart’s crew chief Darian Grubb said. “Either way it looks like it’s going to be cool and overcast so we made a few adjustments and got us some extra rubbers in there if we needed to make an adjustment in the race.”
Despite being a flat short track, many crew chiefs in the garage feel Martinsville is much more temperature sensitive than some of its larger counterparts.
“I think it’s a little bit more [temperature sensitive],” Grubb said. “You have a softer tire and the rubber lays up on the track and the hotter it gets, even when it’s cold, when the Cup cars get out there they’re so heavy and they build up so much heat in the right sides that the rubber starts laying down anyway. The colder it is the more slick that rubber gets. I’d say it’s even more temperature sensitive than other tracks.”
“We’re not sure if it’s going to rain today and if we’ll race Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday,” said Dave Rogers, crew chief for Kyle Busch. “You’re going to have a little more grip with it being cooler and overcast like this. When it’s hot and sunny, the track is going to be slicker and more difficult to hook up. Still, you’re trying to be the best car to hook up off the corner. You do have to get your car turning and rotating in the center, but you have to have the drive up off. I think the cooler conditions will make that easier, but the cooler conditions are here for everyone so it’s the same game.”
Like each of these crew chiefs explained, every team in the garage is now forced to deal with the weather Mother Nature has provided today in Martinsville, Va. The overnight preparations are over and the cars now sit on pit road covered as everyone waits on the weather, but as it looks now Steve Letarte may just get his wish of a Monday matinee.
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