NASCAR Rain Wrecks

Today’s NASCAR race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was under threat from rain the moment the field began their pace laps.

Weepers, unintentional draining channels that put water onto the track after light rain, seemed to be creating problems even when that rain was not directly present. NASCAR considered delaying the start of the race, but ultimately chose not to. Mist followed shortly afterward, the track became wet, and the top two wrecked in the hazardous conditions.

Kyle Busch, the leader that crashed, reported rain laps earlier. In an interview with NBC, he mentioned that he was already lifting heavily with the rain in mind two laps before the yellow was actually thrown. He also mentions that he knew, specifically, that he would wreck once he got back to the corner that he spun in. Twice, he was asked to comment specifically on how he feels about NASCAR’s management of the situation. Both times, he refused.

Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, both spun from the top five as well, Neither has nearly the race-ending damage Busch suffered, but both have had their race derailed early.

In another NBC interview, NASCAR Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell put some of the blame on the pace car driver, who gave the series the all-clear to start despite the damp conditions early. He noted that NASCAR’s process to delay a race is a few steps, one that was in progress as conditions worsened and Busch wrecked. Finally, he added that he had never seen the rain create havoc so quickly in a race.

Notably, a very similar thing happened during a restart at Texas last Fall. That particular incident caught out Kevin Harvick from the lead, a key moment in him eventually missing the final round of the 2020 playoffs. The damage to Busch’s car is far worse than that to Harvick’s car in that race, but the incident should at least have served as precedent for the series being more patient with wet surfaces.

Nonetheless, NASCAR says this is unprecedented. The race is currently under red flag conditions, but the short, flat track should dry quickly once the rain stops.