NASCAR: Race Weekend Weather Forecast


All three of NASCAR’s top tier series will be in one place this weekend, as the sport heads to Kentucky Motor Speedway for a trio of night races.  Once again, we have a complicated forecast in front of us that will come down to timing of showers and thunderstorms rolling through the area, but the silver lining may be the temperatures, which could be a whole lot worse this time of year.

June 29, 2012; Sparta, IN, USA; NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Austin Dillon in the Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Mandatory credit: Michael Hickey-USA TODAY Sports

The good news is that it looks like whatever rain we have in the area is going to be of the scattered variety.  We will be dealing with a trough of low pressure sitting over the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes, which will send little “spokes” of energy through Kentucky as they rotate around the low pressure system.  This will produce rounds of scattered showers and a few thunderstorms, but nailing down the timing of these clusters can be a bit like predicting when the guy behind you is going to pull off that last lap slingshot move on a restrictor plate track… You know it’s coming, and you have a general idea when, but when and where they go make all the difference.

The first of these waves of showers looks to pass through the area early Thursday morning, and this will be the strongest one as it has more warm air to work with.  This will be the actual cool front passing through, as winds will shift around to the northwest and begin to filter in some slightly drier (or at least less humid) air.  But with lower pressure and relatively cool air in the upper levels of the atmosphere lingering over the area, we may see some more scattered showers develop again Thursday afternoon.  The latest models, however, keep most of this activity to the northeast of the track, so I am actually more optimistic about racing Thursday night than I thought I would be last week.

So for Thursday night’s UNOH225 Camping World Truck Series race, expect partly to mostly cloudy skies with a slight chance of isolated showers and thunderstorms.  Qualifying is set to be held at 5pm ET, followed by the race at 8pm.  Temperatures will be around 87 degrees for qualifying but cool to the low 80s for the start of the race, and middle 70s by the end.  Winds will be gusty at times out of the northwest, but generally around 10-15 mph. Even in a worst-case scenario, I don’t see a reason for this one to get washed out, but I won’t be surprised to see a delay.  That said, the forecast does look better than it did several days ago.

Moving on to Friday, there is all kinds of activity planned with practice and qualifying for both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup teams, topped off with the Nationwide Series Feed the Children 300 race at 7:30 pm Thursday night.  We may again see a weak disturbance roll through early in the morning, before on-track activities begin, which could spark a few showers.  The problem this time around could actually be sunshine, which may allow temperatures to warm up enough to generate new showers and storms Friday afternoon and evening.  These should initiate well to the north of the track, but could sag south into the area at or just before the green flag is scheduled to drop.  Again, these will be scattered, so there is a good chance they will miss the track, but I am a little worried that these showers could produce longer delays.  Nothing to hang your hat on at this point, but something to keep an eye on for Friday.

Skies will be partly to mostly cloudy again for Friday night’s race, and winds will remain out of the northwest at about 10 mph.  Temperatures will top out around 86 degrees, but you should notice less humidity than on Thursday.  Green flag temperatures will be around 83 degrees, but cool nicely down to around 74 by the end of the race.  Any showers that do develop should taper off Thursday night, and we’ll drop into the middle 60s overnight into Saturday morning.

Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 could end up being the most affected race of the weekend, as another of these spokes of energy rotates through the area.  It’s the same story… scattered showers and thunderstorms… but in this case I am worried that these showers will fire earlier in the day, and could leave the track wet before the scheduled start.  Therefore, while I doubt we will have a washout, I think the best chance of any delays this weekend will be for the Cup race Saturday night.

If we do get things rolling on time Saturday night, temperatures will be in the low 80s during the pre-race ceremonies and the drop of the green flag at just after 7:30pm ET, and once again cool into the low 70s by the end of the race.  If showers and storms hit during the afternoon, temperatures may struggle to reach the 80s.  Winds will be a little lighter, out of the west at around 5-10 mph and not a factor.

Don’t stay home because of the weather, but do prepare yourself for what could happen.  Campers will want to bring extra clothes in case yours get wet, extra shoes, towels and tarps.  Be sure to secure your campsite, especially if you leave it unoccupied, as some of the storms could contain gusty winds that will blow things around.  Come up with a game plan should one of these thunderstorms threaten the area while you are in the stands, as these will be capable of producing lightning as well, or have something to do to pass the time if it is raining.

Next week, we’ll see who can pull off that slingshot pass as the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series head to Daytona International Speedway for some more night racing. Some very wet weather is in store for the sunshine state over the next week, but we should be winding that pattern down in time for the 4th of July weekend festivities at DIS.  I’ll have the details for you next week here at!