Championship 4 Crew chiefs are ready if rain impacts Sunday’s race

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The Sprint Cup champion might not only have the best team but the best meteorologist.

Just as rain shortened last weekend’s race at Phoenix, rain could impact this weekend’s action at Homestead-Miami Speedway and affect Sunday’s season finale.

If so, it will add another layer of drama in the championship battle for Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Gordon.

Early forecasts call for between 55 and 90 percent chance of rain Sunday and rain throughout the weekend in South Florida.

The 2011 finale there was impacted by rain. The race featured three cautions and a 74-minute red flag for rain before going the full distance with Tony Stewart beating Carl Edwards for the championship.

Alan Gustafson, crew chief for Gordon, said Hendrick Motorsports monitors about 10 different weather sites during an event. Gustafson tried to keep Gordon out as long as possible last weekend at Phoenix waiting for the rain to arrive. Instead, he had to call Gordon to pit road before the rain.

“We were probably five, seven minutes short, and that’s tough to predict when you get down to those small windows,’’ Gustafson said. “Depending on how your race is going, it could be a big factor and it could play out.’’

Cole Pearn, crew chief for Truex, said he and three engineers typically monitor radar and weather sites during a race.

“I think everybody got thrown for a little bit of a loop this past weekend in Phoenix, but obviously South Florida weather is very humid and easy to have pop‑up showers at any point,’’ Pearn said. “I think when we tested there a couple months ago, we pretty much, I think over a whole day, only got about four hours of running in just because of the sporadic weather conditions during the day. I think we definitely have to be prepared for that, but again, everyone is in the same boat, so I think you just prepare the best you can and deal with whatever comes.’’

Rodney Childers, crew chief for Harvick, said he’ll focus on the weather closer to the event.

“It seems to be changing daily,’’ Childers said of the forecast. “It looked like Friday was the worst day a few days ago, and now it’s kind of looking like Sunday is the worst day. Man, you just hate to have weather days like that on a big race weekend like that, especially one that is going to determine a championship.

“But you know, they could change 10 more times before Sunday, and we just have to wait until we get down there and then Friday morning make a plan on what we think the weather is going to do.’’