Oh the Irish Hills of Michigan… One of the most beautiful states in the country will play host to the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series this weekend, as the sport heads to Michigan International Speedway. It’s a track that has received its share of criticism in the past (I’m guilty of it myself), but has produced some excellent racing as of late and had some great crowds to see it. You can bet I’ll be watching this weekend. We may end up needing a little help from Mother Nature, but I wouldn’t let some of the online forecasts (not necessarily on twitter… just talking about the Weather Service, Weather.com, etc…) shy you away from the track this weekend.
While not a slam dunk kind of forecast, I am optimistic that we’ll get both races in, and think there is a decent chance they run without delays. What we will be dealing with is a complex of showers and thunderstorms riding along an old front that will be stalled out over Indiana and Ohio, south of the track. The problem is this isn’t something we can actually see on satellite or radar right now. It should be there, but all we really have to go by is our gut and some weather models. While I have a lot of confidence it will develop, the uncertainty lies in figuring out exactly when and where.
So here’s what I see. The atmosphere looks stable throughout the day on Saturday, then begins to destabilize (become more favourable for rain and thunderstorms) Saturday night. Oftentimes, you will see a cluster of thunderstorms turn into a large complex during the afternoon and evening hours over the Plains, and these will race eastward into the Ohio Valley or southern Great Lakes during the overnight hours, usually along an old frontal boundary wherever it lies. In this case, we are fairly confident that the front will be well to the south of the speedway, so if and when this complex develops, the bulk of the rain and storm activity (especially the stronger storms), should stay over Indiana and Ohio Saturday night into Sunday morning, with only scattered showers and a few storms rolling through southern Michigan. This idea has some support from the latest weather models, and would mean that any rain that falls on the track would occur between events.
There are two ways this forecast could go wrong. The models and I could be off on the timing of this thunderstorm complex. If the disturbance is passing through Indiana and Ohio during race time on Sunday, some of the scattered showers and isolated storms could extend up toward the track and cause some delays. The other way it could fail is if the complex of storms rolls through late Saturday night and clears out earlier than expected, allowing the atmosphere to “recover” and destabilize again (become more favorable for thunderstorm development) during the afternoon on Sunday. In this case, we’d be looking at scattered but potentially strong to severe storms. In both worst-case scenarios, I think there would be opportunities for racing in between showers.
The good news is both of those situations appear to be a low enough risk at this time that we should be good to go racing all weekend. Saturday looks especially promising, so now that I’ve gotten all those crazy explanations out of the way, let’s dig into the actual forecast.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series Alliance Truck Parts 250 is set to start just after 2:30pm ET on Saturday, and should get started under partly to mostly cloudy skies. I suppose there is a low percentage chance of a shower or thunderstorm based on some of the models, but to me it looks like the rain moves in after the race ends, if it moves in at all. Temperatures look downright perfect with afternoon highs only in the mid to upper 70s after morning lows in the low 50s. Great camping weather! We’ll call it 75 degrees at the drop of the green flag and about 77 degrees when the checkered flag falls.
For those camping Saturday night though, this is when I think the rain moves in. Rain chances ramp up after 7pm ET, and remain elevated through around 9am ET on Sunday. You’ll definitely want to prepare your camp for wet weather overnight, because although it should be scattered, it should rain at some point during that time period even if only briefly. Bring some extra socks and shoes, clothes, and some towels and throw them in a garbage bag to keep them dry if you are tent camping, and don’t forget the tarps. You can never have too many tarps!
The track should be green from the rain overnight, which could affect the teams and their setups, but I’m going to say it will be dry in time for the start of Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 just after 1pm ET. There is a chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms that you will want to be prepared for, just in case, but I expect the race to run on Sunday in its entirety, and again I think there is a good chance it could make it the distance without a delay. I’ll be keeping an eye on the radar on Sunday to make sure the storms stay to the south, so you can follow me on twitter at @weathersfuori for updates if needed.
Temperatures Sunday morning will start off around 60 degrees but warm to 76 by the time the race starts, and peak at 79 degrees just as the race is ending. We’ll have partly to mostly cloudy skies and a light breeze out of the west-southwest at around 5-10 mph.
Next week, it’s a long trip out to the West Coast where NASCAR’s finest will be in the wine country of Central California turning left and right at Sonoma Raceway. Meanwhile the Nationwide Series will be tackling a different road course at Road America in Wisconsin. We’re going to have to keep an eye on thunderstorm complexes again for Saturday’s race, but the pattern looks good for Cup Series racing in California on Sunday. I’ll give you all the details next week here at BeyondTheFlag.com! Enjoy the racing this weekend.