We’ve finally made it to the official start of the NASCAR racing season, folks! There are so many story lines going into the races tonight, Saturday and of course the Daytona 500 on Sunday, and, perhaps quietly for some, the weather is unfortunately becoming another item on the list.
Normally I write my forecasts in chronological order from the first race to the last in the weekend, but this is Daytona, so why not do things a little different? All eyes are on Sunday’s Daytona 500 weather forecast, because once again this year, it’s not cut and dry. In fact, despite what you might here elsewhere, this is a very similar overall weather pattern for north and central Florida to what we had last year.
A quick glance at mainstream internet forecasts from Weather.com and Accuweather.com (unfortunately this is where a lot of people go first for their forecasts) shows a slight chance of isolated showers and thunderstorms on Sunday, generally showing percentages around 30%. The National Weather Service, a more reliable source of weather information, shows a forecast closer to what I first warned you about last weekend in my Sprint Unlimited Forecast article… Here’s an excerpt from my forecast issued on February 15th.
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.
The National Weather Service now shows a 60% chance of rain on Sunday.
So here’s the thing- Don’t get wrapped up in the percentages. For all intents and purposes, they don’t have a whole lot of meaning for the area that is important, Daytona International Speedway itself. The bottom line is that we’ll have a front stalled out over the area on Sunday, and that front will provide a focus for shower development. It is just one, albeit very important, ingredient necessary for rain to develop. With the front alone, generally you can get isolated showers that would support Weather.com’s forecast. The question is whether or not there will be any “disturbances” or ripples of energy in the atmosphere to ride along that front, adding extra “lift” to the air to create more widespread and significant rainfall. On top of that, when and exactly where those disturbances or “pockets of lift” decide to go will determine whether we race on Sunday or not.
I have a meteorology degree, 10+ years of forecasting experience and forecast the weather for a major oil company, but I don’t know right now if the rain will be at the track, or 10 miles away. And don’t let anyone else make you think they know, either, because they don’t.
However, I’m here to give it to you straight, and tell you how to prepare for the race if you are attending, or perhaps competing. The thing is, NASCAR is not going to change the scheduled start time, so by all means, do not change your plans to attend! I don’t see any dangerous weather, so show up and give it a chance. I’ve been to every single NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway since 1985. There has only been one weekend in that time when I have ever given up on the chance to race on Sunday ahead of time, and that was when the March 1993 Superstorm hit the track. It takes an impending blizzard to get me to stay home, and it should be that way for all NASCAR fans, in my opinion.
We won’t really know until Sunday where the rain will be, and how it may or may not affect the speedway, but at this point, prepare for showers at the track throughout the day, and be ready to deal with delays in the action. We’ve got Air Titan this time around, and that is going to be a huge help to fans. Whether it saves a rain-out will depend on just how often it rains, and how well it lives up to expectations. My money is on NASCAR for the latter question.
So here’s my forecast for Sunday. Mostly cloudy with scattered showers… Morning lows in the mid 60s with afternoon highs in the upper 70s. Assuming we start on time, green flag temperatures should be near 78 degrees. Could there be enough rain to delay or even postpone the race? Yes. Could it be dry enough to get the whole race in without any weather delays? Yes. Again, we just have to wait and see where the rain is on Sunday, but I am confident there will be showers around. Let’s just hope they stay “around” and not within the speedway grounds.
There is some better news to tell you about. The weather looks pretty good through Saturday’s NASCAR events. Tonight, we have the NextEra Energy Resources 250 kicking off the 2013 season for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I have a slight chance of a shower in the forecast for tonight’s race, but I don’t think anything will persist long enough to shorten the race or cause a postponement. At worst, I see a potential delay and a chance for all of us to see Air Titan in action. At best, I see rain-free conditions with warm temperatures in the low 70s at the drop of the green flag, only cooling to around 69 degrees at the checkers. The chance of rain is slim for this one.
On Saturday, we’ll be watching a cold front enter the northwestern portions of Florida, but holding to the northwest of the speedway. Showers and thunderstorms will be a possibility late in the evening, but with a 1:30pm start for the Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300, we should get this race in without any weather issues at all. It’ll be another warm day with green flag temperatures close to 80 degrees, perhaps cooling into the upper 70s by the end of the race. It will be breezy though, with southwest winds 10-15 mph gusting at times to 20-25 mph. That’ll be a headwind going into turn 1.
So we’ve got a lot to watch over the next 48 hours but no reason yet to pull the plug on seeing great racing on Sunday. Check in with me on twitter (@weathersfuori) for updates to the forecast Sunday morning. I’ll be watching it for you!