It’s that time of year again, folks! Mid-February means it is time for the return of NASCAR racing at Daytona International Speedway, and typically that means racing in 70-degree weather in the sunshine state this time of year. But the new Gen 6 cars flying by won’t be the only thing kicking up a breeze at DIS… A cold front plowing through the Sunshine State Saturday night will bring cold and windy weather more typical of February in Charlotte than at Daytona Beach.
The front looks to pass through late in the afternoon, before the green flag drops for the Sprint Unlimited Saturday night, but around the time of the start of the ARCA Series Lucas Oil 200. When the front comes through, you’ll know it. Winds will gust up to 25-35 mph or higher by late afternoon and remain that way through the duration of the races. It’ll be even a little gustier up at the top of the higher grandstands as well. I don’t envy the spotters who will be standing on top of the Sprint Tower tomorrow night (okay, I still do… a little), but I would imagine they are fairly used to this by now.
Those winds will be bringing in some much colder air by Saturday evening as well, so be sure to wear layers and grab the big coat. For the ARCA race, temperatures will be in the low 60s at first, and fall to the upper 50s by the checkered flag. Green flag for the Sprint Unlimited is scheduled for just after 8pm ET, and temperatures will already be in the low 50s by then, dropping to 46-48 degrees by the end of the race. Factoring in the wind however will make it feel more like 38-42 degrees as the race wears on. Winds out of the northwest could make the tri-oval a little trickier than normal, as not only will it be a cross wind, but there could be some turbulent air from winds blowing over the grandstands. That coupled with a new car that has less rear downforce and has never seen real racing action could make things really interesting!
So what about rain? Well, we do have a front coming through that will have some moisture available with it, so I can’t call a completely dry forecast. BUT, rain chances are very small, and what little rain there may be will not only be very short-lived, but also likely very light. No thunderstorms to worry about… just a slim (call it 20% or less if you like percentages) chance of a passing light rain shower. It is really almost not worth mentioning. I don’t think we’ll see enough rain for NASCAR to bring out the new Air Titan track drying system, though I honestly can’t wait to see it in action.
For those sticking around for qualifying on Sunday, temperatures will drop to around the freezing mark, 32 degrees, Sunday morning and only rise into the low 50s in the afternoon… about 3 degrees cooler than the average high in Charlotte, North Carolina this time of year. Winds will come down a little on Sunday, but still gust to around 20 mph at times out of the north-northwest (cross wind on the straightaways, especially strong on the backstretch, headwind in turns 3 and 4, tail wind in 1 and 2), so not only will the fans still need to be bundled up, but those wind gusts could affect some of the qualifying runs. The good news is the sun will be shining bright with no chance of rain on Sunday.
All eyes will be on the forecast for the rest of Speedweeks as we build up to the Daytona 500 on February 24, hoping for a better blessing from Mother Nature than we got last year (just about anything would be better, right?). While it is way too early to pin down any details that might affect the racing next weekend, this will be a forecast that unfortunately bears watching, as the pattern over the southern US will be a wet one. Be sure to check back with us here at Beyondtheflag.com for updates on the forecast. I’ll be chiming in early next week as more data comes out to give you an update on the forecast for next week and weekend’s festivities.