NASCAR at Daytona: Weather Forecast

Excitement continues to build as we approach the start of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.  Before the green flag drops on the Great American race though, we’ve got a pair of races to get through on Thursday that always take that anticipation up a notch.  They are the perfect appetizers, the Budweiser Duels… Just enough to satisfy you after waiting so long to feed that hunger, but not so much that you aren’t left drooling for the main course.  I’m here to tell you if Mother Nature will be serving sunshine or spilling water all over the table!

Photo Courtesy Getty Images for NASCAR

Thursday’s forecast is pretty straightforward.  I see no problems getting both Duels in without a hitch.  We’ll see a light breeze out of the east at around 5-10 mph, and partly cloudy skies.  With the onshore winds, skies could be a little cloudier at times, but rain chances are near zero.  As for temperatures, we’re looking at morning lows around 50 Thursday, rising up to the low 70s in the afternoon right around the time Danica Patrick takes the green flag in Duel #1.  Temperatures should begin cooling into the upper 60s by around 5-6pm.  Weather doesn’t get much better than this.

Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series kicks off with the NextEra Energy Resources 250, with the green flag scheduled for just before 8pm ET.  Clouds will be more prevalent on Friday, but temperatures will be warmer during the day, with highs close to 80 degrees. By race time, we’ll still have temperatures in the low 70s, and only cool to around 69 degrees by the end of the race.  The reason for the warm temperatures will be winds shifting to the south on Friday, bringing increased moisture (humidity) and, combined with the cloud cover, not allowing temperatures to cool off as much at night.  With this southerly flow will come a small chance of showers, mainly Friday afternoon and early evening, before the trucks get rolling.  We’ll have to keep an eye on this one, but I think we get this race in Friday night.

My anxiety as a meteorologist and lifelong NASCAR fan begins this Saturday.  Low pressure will develop in the northern Gulf of Mexico Friday night and move into Georgia Saturday before quickly riding up the east coast, dragging a cold front behind it.  Currently, reliable weather models show this front draped across northern Florida by Saturday evening, with showers holding just north and west of Daytona long enough to get Saturday’s Nationwide Series DRIVEFORCOPD 300 completed.  It’s all about timing though, and expect this forecast to change a lot as we iron out the details later this week.  If you like to see percentages (I’m not big on using % chance of rain in my forecasts, but TV has this method firmly entrenched in most people’s minds), I’ll say there is about a 20-30% chance of rain impacting the race on Saturday.  Air Titan, you’ve been warned.  Otherwise, expect mostly cloudy skies, temperatures in the low 80s during the race, and breezy conditions with southwest winds 10-15 mph and gusts to 20-25 mph at times.

So this time last year, I was really worried about getting the Daytona 500 in on schedule.  Well, I am a little more optimistic this year, but mostly because we’ve got Air Titan around now.  The front that will be in north Florida Saturday night will still be around on Sunday, perhaps directly over central Florida, so all the atmosphere will need is a little wave… a ripple of energy to ride along that front and produce showers.  So the question will be when these little disturbances or waves of energy will pass through Daytona.

The good news… it won’t rain ALL day, and with the new Air Titan track drying system, NASCAR will have a better opportunity to take advantage of breaks in the rain (windows, as we call them) and get the track dry and cars rolling.  Even if Air Titan is half as good as it is supposed to be (40% reduction in drying times vs. 80%), this will be a huge asset to NASCAR and fans alike.  But, hesitant as I am to say this because I know it’ll freak fans out, this pattern is eerily similar to what we had last year (stalled out front over central Florida), and so it is a concern at this point.  The thing to keep in mind though is that I am writing this on Wednesday… as you know a lot can change with the weather between now and Sunday, but what won’t change is the scheduled start of 1:20pm ET on Sunday.  Look for an updated forecast from me here at Friday morning.

Tags: Budweiser Duel Camping World Truck Series Daytona 500 NASCAR Nationwide Series Sprint Cup Series Weather Forecast

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