NASCAR has announced that it will hold a test session Thursday on a dampened Martinsville Speedway to explore the possibility of using rain tires on short ovals.
With mostly sunny skies expected Thursday, organizers will wet the half-mile track for testing under controlled conditions.
In comments to NASCAR.com, the sport’s chief racing development officer, Steve O’Donnell, said the ultimate goal being sought is to enable a quicker return to racing in inclement conditions.
“We’re always trying to innovate, and you saw that with what we’ve done around the track-drying system and that’s worked out well,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve always looked at what’s the next iteration.
“If you’ve looked at what the teams have been able to do with more road racing coming into the fold, the idea of short tracks and could we work with Goodyear to find a tire that would allow us to get back to racing sooner under wet-weather conditions.”
O’Donnell indicated that if the test goes well, competition officials might consider using the rain tires in damp conditions – not actual rain, for the time being – at flatter short ovals such as Martinsville, Richmond Raceway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The Cup Series used rain tires for the first time in racing conditions last season at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
In a somewhat famous footnote, NASCAR previously tested Goodyear rain tires at Martinsville in 1995. NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte participated in his own No. 5 Hendrick Chevy.
A rain delay during practice at Martinsville led to Terry Labonte testing out Goodyear's rain-tires on an oval for the first time. (1995) pic.twitter.com/b9xuC2U4rG
— NASCAR Memories (@NASCARMemories) October 29, 2017
“It didn’t feel as good as I thought it would,” Labonte said at the time. “That’s why those Formula One guys make so much money. It felt like I was on ice. I’d go in the corner and it wouldn’t turn very good. I’d get in the throttle and think it wasn’t bad, then the back end would break loose.”
One assumes that NASCAR and Goodyear are hoping for more encouraging reactions on Thursday.