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NASCAR’s “Wet Weather” Tires Explained

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

NASCAR has been slowly working a “Wet weather” package into their series over the past few years. First, it was in use on road courses, but, it was added to short ovals in 2023. What are these wet weather tires and how does the overall package work?

  • NASCAR typically has not raced on wet weather throughout its history, but, in 2016, it officially implemented a wet weather package in the Cup Series. After a few uses on road courses, NASCAR implemented the package on short tracks beginning in 2023, with the first use in a Cup Series points race coming in 2024 at Richmond.
  • While people usually think of tires when they think of wet weather packages, the package is far deeper than that. Multiple elements go into the wet weather package.
  • Fans are happy to see NASCAR using a wet-weather package. Racing in the rain is an interesting part of motorsports, and NASCAR is joining the party.

How the Wet Weather Package Works

The star of the wet weather package is the tires, which are the predominant thing that allow NASCAR to race in the rain. Rain tires have tread patterns on them, similar to tires on a typical passenger car. Typical racing tires are “Slick” tires, which have no tread pattern on them.

The tires are designed to expel the water through the treads, which, allows the tire to better grip the racing surface. The water also serves to keep the tires cool, as wet-weather tires tend to warm up quicker than dry tires do. This is why wet-weather tires would not work on a dry track.

However, the tires are not the only part of a wet weather package. Plenty of elements found on many road vehicles are added to the cars to help them in wet conditions. This includes a defogger, a windshield wiper, and flaps behind the rear tires.

Each of these functions in exactly the same way as they do on an everyday passenger vehicle. The windshield wiper wipes water off the windshield, the defogger keeps the windshield from fogging up, and the flaps minimize the spray from the rear tires. This is all done to maintain visibility for the drivers.

Short Tracks vs Road Courses

There are two track types that NASCAR uses this package at, short ovals (Phoenix, New Hampshire, Martinsville, North Wilkesboro, Richmond, LA Coliseum, Indianapolis Raceway Park (Trucks only), and Milwaukee (Trucks only)) and road courses (COTA, Sonoma, Chicago Street Race, Watkins Glen, Portland (Xfinity only), and Charlotte Roval). The package varies slightly for both.

The road course package uses everything included in the wet weather package. While not designed to race in a heavy downpour with too much standing water, NASCAR cars can race in light rain on road courses. The Chicago Street Race in 2023 is one example of a wet-weather road course race.

The short track package eliminates the windshield wiper and flaps, only using a defogger and rain tires. Whereas the road course package can race in light rain, the short track package is designed to be raced on a damp/drying race track. The goal is to get back to racing sooner after rain by using the wet weather package to help dry the race track. The first time this was used came in 2023 in the All-Star Heat Races at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The package is not used on any speedways larger than New Hampshire (1.018 miles in length). The high speed combined with the high tire wear of the bigger race tracks makes it difficult to compete in the rain on a speedway. IndyCar, for example, does not race in the rain on ovals, even though they do on road courses.

The wet weather package has been one of the most welcome additions to NASCAR since it was introduced. Could we see it expanded in the future?

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