Atlanta Motor Speedway is a special place for me. My dad took me to my first NASCAR race there in 1985, where we camped out in tents in the infield. That was the beginning of a long standing tradition for us, and this weekend will mark the 27th year in a row that my dad and I have attended the NASCAR races at AMS. Oh the weather we have dealt with over the years! Fortunately, I think we will have enough dry time this weekend to get all 1000 miles of NASCAR racing in, but yes, there is a chance of rain… again.
I began watching what became Hurricane Isaac last week, as it was clear to me that this would be a Gulf of Mexico storm. What I wasn’t sure about was how deep into the Gulf it would get. There was a huge range of weather model solutions regarding both the track and timing of landfall with some models showing a repeat of last year’s washout at AMS, but at least in terms of impacts at the track, we lucked out on this one. Isaac has been just far enough to the west to keep most of the organized rain and thunderstorms away from the track, but the issue has been a weak frontal boundary that remains draped over central Georgia. With warm, moist air streaming in from the Gulf on the outskirts of Isaac colliding with the front in place over the southeast, isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms have occasionally doused those die-hard campers who have already set up shop in the campgrounds.
The good news is that by the time track activity begins on Friday, high pressure looks to strengthen just enough to put a lid on some of those storms. The same will be true for Saturday, with only isolated showers and thunderstorms expected, and mainly confined to the afternoon and early evening hours. The key word here is isolated… There’s no way of knowing exactly when and where they will develop, but if they do hit the track, they should be brief, and there should be enough separation between storms to allow track drying if needed. I see no problems getting in the full distance for the Camping World Truck Series race Friday night or the Nationwide Series race Saturday night.
Friday night- Camping World Truck Series Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 200: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of an isolated shower or thunderstorm early in the race. Green flag temperature: 80 degrees, 74 degrees at the checkered flag. Daytime high temperatures in the middle 80s, with morning lows in the upper 60s.
Saturday night- Nationwide Series NRA American Warrior 300: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of an isolated shower or thunderstorm early in the race. Green flag temperature: 86 degrees, 76 at the checkered flag. Daytime highs in the upper 80s, with morning lows in the upper 60s.
On Sunday, things do get a little more complicated. The remnants of Isaac will be moving east into the Ohio Valley by then, rolling into Kentucky. Meanwhile, that frontal boundary over the southeast will still be there, and may be a focusing mechanism for shower and thunderstorm development Sunday afternoon and evening. Right now, it appears that this front may lie across the Carolinas instead of Georgia. This is a good thing, as it would keep the more widespread and continuous rain well to the northeast of the track, but even in this scenario, we won’t be able to rule out an isolated thunderstorm or two around Atlanta Motor Speedway. The bottom line… I don’t see a repeat of last year’s washout, as I believe any showers or storms will be few enough and far enough in between to either get the race in without issue, or finish it Sunday night even if there is a rain delay.
Sunday night- Sprint Cup Series Advocare 500: Partly to mostly cloudy with isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms possible, mainly early in the race. Green flag temperature: 82 degrees, 74 at the checkered flag. Daytime highs around 90, with morning lows in the upper 60s to near 70.
Although the forecast looks promising for getting in all the races this weekend, it will only take one thunderstorm at any point during your visit to the track to cause you some problems. Be prepared to get wet just in case, and if we do see thunderstorms, have a “pit strategy” in place to seek shelter if necessary. I am always prepared to make a bee-line toward the turn three infield bathrooms if the weather gets crazy!
Be safe, and come say hi if you are in the infield. We’ll be there in spots 190-193 as always!