Murto: Rain and racing don’t mix

Craig Murto

The good news is that we are no longer in a drought; the bad news is that race tracks throughout the region are struggling to get all their race dates in.

Once again rain washed out most of the regional racing, forcing postponements and cancellations. Dirt tracks can’t race in the rain, as the racing surface is nonexistent. Check the websites of your favorite facility to find out when/if the race you were to attend is rescheduled.

The Hampton Heat race at Langley Speedway has been postponed until Aug. 18. That is the day of the Bristol night race, but with so many Late Model tracks shutting down that evening it may mean even more cars will be entered. And since people have the ability to record the race, Bristol should not affect the attendance at Langley. The Hampton, Virginia track is not too far away, making this race worth attending.

The weekend rain even moved into the Northeast, where it almost washed out the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race in New Hampshire. If it weren’t for today’s modern jet driers and the Air Titans, the race would not have been held. It would have taken too long to dry using the old method of dragging tires, but the Air Titans had the track race-ready in little more than an hour.

Fans who stuck around were treated to an exciting race with a thrilling finish, as Kevin Harvick moved Kyle Busch for the lead with about 10 laps remaining. It was a brave move on Harvick’s part, as we are not too far away from the playoffs, and as Busch observed, “You get raced the way you race others.”

Road racing can still happen in the rain, as long as there is no standing water on the racing surface. Keeping that in mind, the Sports Car Club of America racing at Summit Point, West Virginia, this weekend should be exciting, even with early forecasts predicting some possibly wet weather. And best of all, admission is free. Get there about 10 a.m. each day and you should be OK. You don’t even have to pack food, as the concession stand is close to the paddock, giving you the opportunity to check out the variety of racing equipment and get lunch at the same time.

And if there is a little bit of rain, it could make the racing that much more exciting, as it did for Formula One at the Grand Prix of Germany.

Lewis Hamilton started an uncharacteristic 14th on the grid, but quickly drove through the field to be in contention. Both Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes pilot Valtteri Bottas were victims of team orders, told to either relinquish a position or not to challenge so that Sebastian Vettel and could maximize their points as they race for the World Drivers Championship.

But spotty rain on a few sections of the Hockenheimring circuit made racing challenging. A few teams switched to intermediate wet-weather tires, only to discover that there was not enough moisture on the circuit to justify the selection. Plus, with the treads and no moisture to keep the tires cool, the tires were virtually destroyed in short order.

The Mercedes team predicted the rain perfectly and put Hamilton on a fresh set of ultra-soft tires late in the running. He had to carefully skate through the wet sections but had far more traction and speed than his competitors in the dry.

Vettel, meanwhile, had the race won. He had a sizeable lead and was not challenged. That was until he made a rare mistake in the damp conditions and crashed out in front of his home crowd.

Rain made the German Grand Prix one of the most interesting F1 races of the season. And we have IndyCar at Mid-Ohio Road Course this weekend, and NASCAR at Watkins Glen, New York in a couple of weeks. With all the wet weather we’ve encountered this year, and with Cup cars fitted with windshield wipers and rain tires, it could prove interesting.

Rain doesn’t mix with drag racing, and luckily it wasn’t a factor at Colorado’s Bandimere Speedway for the National Hot Rod Association’s Mile-High Nationals. Leah Pritchett won in Top Fuel, and John Force scored the 149th Funny Car victory of his career. Greg Anderson won in Pro Stock and Hector Arana Jr. won in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.