There is always a lot of build-up ahead of the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race Weekend, as fans and drivers alike look forward to a night of no-holds-barred racing under the lights at the historic Charlotte Motor Speedway, just outside the back door of most of the teams’ headquarters. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will also get to run in front of the hometown crowd on Friday night. Unfortunately, weather once again has a chance to dampen the excitement, and it is possible that there will be another vehicle added to the lineup for Saturday night’s race on top of the fan vote and Sprint Showdown winner- Air Titan.
Last week at Darlington, we were somewhat concerned about an approaching cold front and the warm and humid air mass ahead of it sparking off scattered showers and thunderstorms in the area. Storms fell apart over the upstate of South Carolina though, and the weather turned out to be nearly perfect last Saturday night. This weekend, we will be watching a slow moving disturbance that is expected to track over the Tennessee Valley on Friday and end up near or just to the west of Charlotte by Saturday evening. This is actually the same disturbance that caused an outbreak of tornadoes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area Wednesday night. Now by the time it reaches the Carolinas, it will no longer have the necessary characteristics to produce organized severe weather, but it may combine with a stalled out front over the area to produce scattered showers and thunderstorms Friday night and especially by Saturday.
Lets start off with a look at the forecast for Friday night’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200, as well as qualifying for the Sprint Showdown and All-Star Race. At this point, the disturbance of interest will still be just crossing the Mississippi River, but a front that is currently over the Mid-Atlantic this morning will drop into North Carolina from the north and northeast by Friday evening. This front will bring a chance of isolated showers and thunderstorms for the afternoon and mainly early evening hours, so there is a small chance of impacts on qualifying, which kicks off at 5:15pm. We just have to wait and see if and where the showers develop. The trucks are scheduled for an 8pm ET start, and any showers should be starting to weaken by this time. I am fairly confident we’ll be able to get this relatively short race in, though there could be a delay either to the start of the race, or not long after the green flag drops. Either way, there should be enough time to get the full distance in.
It’s going to be a fairly warm and muggy day Friday with high temperatures around 85 degrees and some humidity to go along with it. Temperatures during qualifying for the Showdown and All-Star Race should still be in the low-mid 80s, then we’ll drop to around 77 for the start of the Truck Series Race, and 70 degrees for the finish. For those camping overnight, expect low temperatures in the low 60s Saturday morning under partly cloudy skies.
That brings us to Saturday’s forecast for the Sprint Showdown, scheduled for a 7:30pm ET start, with the All-Star Race to follow at around 9pm. Again, we’re dealing with not only the stalled out front, but also the disturbance coming in from the west adding additional lift to the atmosphere, so this brings an increased risk for showers and thunderstorms that may have an impact on track activities. The showers and thunderstorms still look scattered to me, so it is not out of the question that the races go on without any weather issues at all (a no-show is still on the table, similar to what we had last weekend), but be prepared for rain delays, and also be on the lookout for possible lightning strikes if and once the storms do get going. This is another one of those wait and see situations, so don’t go cancelling your plans to go to the race right now… just keep an eye on the forecast and the radar throughout the day Saturday. You can follow me on twitter at @weathersfuori or my good friend and fellow Houstonian @Raceweather for updates, and if there is a major change to the forecast, I’ll post an update here at BeyondTheFlag.com.
So overall on Saturday, expect mostly cloudy skies and slightly cooler temperatures topping out in the low 80s in the afternoon, but the added humidity will probably make it feel just as warm as Friday. Winds will be light out of the south and should not be a factor for either race. We should be in the upper 70s at the start of the Sprint Showdown and cool from around 74 at the start of the All-Star Race to near 70 by the finish. The best chance of showers and thunderstorms will again be in the afternoon and evening hours, but whatever does form Saturday evening may linger a little longer into the night than Friday’s activity, as there will be more of that lift in the atmosphere to maintain the showers. Let’s just hope we can keep them away from the speedway all night (as if we really have any say in the matter!).
We’re still a long way away from next weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 and that other little race up the road in Indiana, but as of right now, I like what I see for both events! Stay tuned…