Wind could sway Las Vegas race
Gusty conditions may pose danger, lead to crashes
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.