Wind could sway Las Ve­gas race

Gusty con­di­tions may pose dan­ger, lead to crashes

Chicago Sun-Times - - NASCAR - FOL­LOW REPORTER JEFF GLUCK @jef­f_gluck for the lat­est news from the track Jeff Gluck jgluck@us­ato­ USA TO­DAY Sports

When Las Ve­gas Mo­tor Speed­way pole­sit­ter Kurt Busch looked at the fore­cast for Sun­day’s Kobalt 400, one word im­me­di­ately came to mind. “Gnarly,” he said. The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice has is­sued a wind ad­vi­sory for the Las Ve­gas area Sun­day dur­ing the sched­uled race time (it’s set for a 12:46 p.m. Pa­cific time, 3:46 p.m. ET green flag), which could give driv­ers a unique chal­lenge.

Wind gusts of 35 to 40 mph are ex­pected along with 20- to 30-mph sus­tained winds. There might be scat­tered show­ers, but it’s the wind that has grabbed the driv­ers’ at­ten­tion.

“It is go­ing to be dan­ger­ous, treach­er­ous,” Joey Logano said.

Brian Neu­dorff, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist known as the un­of­fi­cial NAS­CAR weath­er­man on Twit­ter (@NASCAR_WXMAN), said he couldn’t re­call a race in which strong wind was the pri­mary weather fac­tor in the fore­cast.

“I don’t think there’s a prece­dent, at least from my ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said. “Usu­ally when we get wind, it’s wind with rain, so the rain is the big­ger con­cern and we’re not re­ally fac­tor­ing wind into the sit­u­a­tion.”

NAS­CAR will halt a race for rain, since driv­ers can’t race with non-grooved tires on a wet track. But wind? Game on.

Logano, who starts se­cond, said the cars are al­ready on the edge of crash­ing in or­der to get max­i­mum speed. So when wind gusts come into play? Look out.

“What we do hope is that it is a con­stant wind,” Logano said. “The gusts of wind are what crashes cars. … If you get big gusts, the car jumps out of the race­track and leads you into the wall or spins you right out.”

Busch said the di­rec­tion of the wind could play a ma­jor fac­tor in the race. Driv­ers might get a boost go­ing to­ward one turn and get slowed into an­other, cre­at­ing large dif­fer­ences in speed.

“The down­force in­crease and de­crease (from the wind) is stag­ger­ing,” Busch said. “We are all go­ing to be out there strug­gling, fight­ing and try­ing to gain that grip with the tail­wind.”

Brad Ke­selowski said he’s of­ten asked how the wind af­fects cars. He de­scribed it like this:

u“Think of a race car like an up­side­down air­plane wing. In­stead of mak­ing lift, it makes down­force. Just by that sim­ple anal­ogy, the cars are of course dra­mat­i­cally af­fected by air.”

u“The cars rely on three key aero forces: drag, down­force or side force. The wind, de­pend­ing on where it strikes, where it blows you in what di­rec­tion, can af­fect all three of those.”

u“Be­cause aero­dy­nam­ics are in­her­ently in­ef­fi­cient, it al­ways af­fects you in a worse man­ner than it does in a pos­i­tive man­ner.”

Ke­selowski said the short ver­sion is this: “You have to pull up your pants and drive around.” Still, it­might get messy. “I am sure cars will crash for that rea­son if it is that windy and you get a gust at the wrong time when you are un­der some­body,” Logano said. “It could be big.”


Kurt Busch (41), Denny Ham­lin (11) and Brad Ke­selowski (2) wait to prac­tice in Las Ve­gas.

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