By on February 28, 2012

It was a weekend of ups and downs for your humble author. Up: meeting model and FIAT television-commercial star Catrinel Menghia in Las Vegas, albeit for a moment too brief to pitch my admittely unconvincing case. (“Yes, I know your husband is far wealthier and better-looking than I am — but I can play ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ on the six-string Ovation.”) Down: not receiving an invitation to attend the Camaro ZL1 launch at VIR. The flights back and forth to Las Vegas, combined with various activities once I was on the ground, meant that I received my news in short bursts of permitted cell-phone activation.

So. The Daytona 500 dragged out over three calendar days. Approximately ten million Facebook users made “image macros” featuring everything from ALMS prototypes to LeMons racers driving in the rain. Juan Pablo Montoya ran into a jet-engined track drier, prompting another ten million people to make jokes about “Hit the pace car, Cole” and “Don’t let the invisible fire hurt my friend!”’s lead writer, Aaron Gold, shit-canned Chevrolet’s trailer-park supercar at VIR in what can best be described as “a completely avoidable incident”.

Let’s discuss.

It doesn’t bother me when people who know nothing about cars or racing make fun of NASCAR for not running in the rain. By contrast, when people who should know better — drivers I know with experience up to and including Rolex GT racing — run their mouths about it, it does bother me. It further reinforces the idea that there are two separate worlds of car racing in this country and both sides are pig-head ignorant concerning the other.

Oval tracks and racing in the rain have traditionally been mutually exclusive. The historical basis of this probably goes back to the fact that, while European racing has its roots in public-road events, early American races were commonly held on horse tracks and dirt ovals. Almost immediately after opening in 1909, Indianapolis Motor Speedway became a brick course, and wet bricks simply have no traction at all, so the Indy 500 remained dry-only even after the transition to conventional paving. To this day, the major oval-racing sanctions don’t race in the rain, although the IRL does run road courses under wet conditions.

With that said, there is a growing trend among small-track operators in the United States to permit, encourage, or even mandate racing in the rain in the slower classes. The Hoosier dirt-stocker tires which have long been used for road-course wet racing have become good enough to permit tolerable speeds on quarter-mile ovals. Since those drivers are used to relatively low corner speeds on those mildly-banked, short-radius-turn tracks, many of them have greeted the changes with open arms. It’s always better to race than to sit and wait, you see.

Alas, the same is not true for major-sanction racing on superspeedways. Road racers are very proud of racing in the rain, but the fact of the matter is that there are very few high-speed corners left on major road courses, and where those turns do exist, as with Road Atlanta’s first turn, there are often serious accidents when it rains. The corner loading a car experiences in pretty much every turn, everywhere, of the Random Hick-Targeted Product 400 Somehwere In The Middle Of Flyover Country exceeds Road Atlanta’s Turn One by a factor of three or more. In a full-throttle NASCAR race, run in a constant standing-water situation, (and don’t forget, water runs down a banked turn) every corner entry for every racer would be a hasty, on-the-fly calculation with the penalty for guessing wrong being a full-speed wall impact of the type rarely seen in the sport today. Drivers would die. It’s as simple as that…

…and that’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario would be situations where it rains lightly, a dry line forms in the draft line, that line runs up to normal pace, and a driver is nudged out onto wet pavement, on slicks or intermediates, at over two hundred miles per hour. Don’t confuse that with the tire-smoking melees we see in NASCAR today, or the hit to the wall Danica took last week after full-locking for five hundred feet. It would be the equivalent of simply driving, full-throttle, into the SAFER barrier at 200mph. That’s not courage. That’s stupidity, and no NASCAR or IRL driver in his right mind would sign up for it. The institutional knowledge for running a superspeedway in intermediate conditions simply doesn’t exist among the teams and it would have to be paid for in blood. If you want that to happen, you aren’t a racing fan. You’re the same kind of person who would have enjoyed watching lions tearing people apart in the Colosseum. Go home and take your “TAPOUT” pants with you.

Real race fans, along with anyone else who has ever observed the “competition” of F1 cars droning through four-minute laps when standing water forms can also understand how boring it can be to watch rain racing. At safe standing-water speeds, NASCARs at Talladega would appear to be doing pace laps. It would be mind-numbing. Why bother? Why not just run the race when conditions are correct? Baseball could theoretically be played in the rain, as well, but nobody wants to watch it and they don’t bother to do it. It isn’t entertaining, and NASCAR is meant to be entertainment. Road racers get snippy about that, too, but that’s the way it is. I can guarantee you that if eighty thousand people started showing up at my NASA races, we would change the format to accomodate those people in a heartbeat. At that point, if there’s real prize money involved, we can turn it into figure-eight racing for all I care.

So, let’s review. Superspeedway racing in the rain is dangerous, it is unpredictable, and it is boring. One last thing. For most of the drivers, it probably wouldn’t be any fun. The average racer isn’t really any good in wet conditions. I’ve seen that proven again and again in my own little corner of the racing world. Although history has shown that I am a better wet-weather driver than I am a dry-weather one, just judging by my results over time against the same people, I’d rather drive a dry race. Driving a car with slicks or intermediates in wet conditions is a constant battle to judge conditions and come up with a slightly better answer than the guy next to you, who could kill you through idiocy at pretty much any moment. I can still vividly remember an incident at a NASA race where a guy looped his Spec Miata during the pace lap and took out a bunch of cars. Everybody involved in that incident lost their weekend. Driving in the rain is not fun. It is grueling, technical work and most people can’t do it worth a damn.

Which brings me, at long last, to Aaron Gold and the wrecked ZL1. Aaron had ESP turned on, he was proceeding at what he believed to be a safe, reasonable pace, and he still trashed the car. Aaron is far from a hothead. He is a decent, well-spoken, conservative fellow. I guarantee you that the phrase “Watch this!” never came to his lips or even his mind. He thought he was well within the envelope — but he wasn’t.

At some point the manufacturers and their PR people need to understand that cars like the ZL1 are simply too much for most people to drive on a track without direct supervision, and maybe even with direct supervision. Most journalists are twenty to forty seconds off the maximum safe pace on a two-minute track. I don’t even see what you can learn about a car driving that slowly. You might as well rip it around a Wal-Mart parking lot and write that up. Most journalists would learn more from taking a set of passenger laps with a qualified driver and listening to what that person has to say. Alternately, they could take the Motor Trend way — admit that nobody on the roster can drive and hire Randy Pobst (or Jason Saini, or Ryan Eversley, et al) to do the real work while they roll around in a loaner Phantom and give each other backrubs.

A middle-ground solution, and one I hereby suggest, is that manufacturers require NASA Time Trial certification, or similar, to attend a track event. That’s something you can get in six or seven weekends — or less if you want to pay Skip Barber to coach you up to competence. It’s a minimum requirement and it would be easy to meet. Had Aaron received that level of coaching and properly internalized it, I am virtually certain that Chevrolet would have one more functioning ZL1 in the fleet today. Right now it’s all fun, games, and finger-pointing Jalopnik articles, but on the day that the Lifestyle Editor of is decapitated by a Armco barrier, the back-slapping eternal press party will come to a sharp halt faster than people can make jokes about hitting a track drier. Which reminds me. How many Colombians do you need to stop the race? Just… Juan! Tip your waitress!

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62 Comments on “NASCAR Shouldn’t Run In The Rain — And Neither Should Autojournos...”

  • avatar
    Matt Fink

    Great article. Why not run NASCAR road courses in the rain though? The Nationwide race in Montreal in the rain was very entertaining. Most rain races I’ve seen in person at Mid-Ohio are very entertaining as well (note “rain”, not “standing water”).

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed – Run the Sprint races (Infineon and Watkins Glen) rain-or-shine.

    • 0 avatar

      NASCAR looked into that a few years back.

      They had the rain tires and even put some sort of windshield wiper on the cars but then it didn’t rain on those race weekends.

      It was probably easier to just postpone the race than pack a bunch of extra crap to the track.

    • 0 avatar

      #1 – the nationwide series has rain tires to run on road courses
      #2 – NASCAR tried rain tires in the cup series, ron fellows even won an event on rain tires
      #3 – rain setups(tires + wiper) proved to be economically unfeasible for the cup series simply because they don’t run enough road courses and were wasting tires. that’s a large expense for 2 races out of 36-38 a year

  • avatar

    Well said.

  • avatar

    “and don’t forget, water runs down a banked turn)”

    And jet fuel to.

  • avatar

    Finally, a candidate for something weirder than Take Inouye getting run over by the track marshals at Suzuka. “I am Juan Pablo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to fry”

  • avatar

    Best joke of the weekend: How many NASCAR drivers does it take to crash into a track drier? Just Juan.

  • avatar

    If this Aaron Gold fellow is really the kind of upstanding character that you say he is, then I just feel bad for the guy. Nobody wants to be the person that stuffed the $80k Camaro into a wall; he was probably quite ashamed of himself, and GM has probably blacklisted him from anything over Cruze level now. Do you have any details about the accident? Because from the picture it doesn’t look that bad, just a fairly mild hit to the driver’s front corner that caused the front fascia to pop off.

  • avatar
    roger b.

    I understand why they don’t hold oval NASCAR races in the rain, but I can’t get my F1 lovin’ head around the yellow flag caution periods in NASCAR. Why do they need a 5-lap caution period after one car slides off the track and back into line without hitting anything? I understand the need if there is a major coming together of cars (or track driers and Mr. Montoya), but they seem to throw the flag for some pretty flimsy reasons. Perhaps they should get a sponsor for the yellow flag, since they show it so much.

    • 0 avatar

      5 is probably too much. But, they check for debris on the track. It doesn’t take much @ 200 MPH to cut a tire.

      You see that a lot. Yellow comes out. Some pit, some don’t. A lap or 2 later on green, someone has a cut tire.

      If it was me, I’d have a blower out there on every yellow blowing crap to the apron. It would also take care of a lot of rubber chunks.

    • 0 avatar

      They have a couple rules that are going to force it up to 5:

      #1 – Safety Rule – They got rid of the chase back to the pace car. Therefore, they have to sort out position by scoring loop telemetry. They usually close the pit road the first time by to get everybody jostled into order, and then they can also take any challenges on that first lap to sort out before the caution is up.

      #2 – Competition Rule – They let the lead lap cars pit apart from the lap-down cars. This reduces traffic on pit road for safety and also gets rid of the problem with interference in competition from cars that have no chance of winning.

      So, you’re up to 3 laps off the bat.

      Throw in that it takes a full lap sometimes because of the gear ratios to get the field up to pace speed, and the stock car tradition “one to go” flag from yellow to green, and you’ve got five lap cautions. They used to have more cautions creating more cautions without just committing to five laps gone on a caution.

    • 0 avatar

      They do. At Daytona it was “Servicemaster Clean Caution”. :/

  • avatar

    Back in 1998, Edmunds brought a bunch of vehicles to the Streets of Willow that included a Viper, Corvette and Miata (I don’t really remember what else was there). Only one of our drivers could take the Corvette on the track because GM required that all drivers be authorized (via specific training).

    I am actually surprised that some level of driving proficiency, beyond a driver’s license and fogging the mirror, isn’t required by most manufacturers in order to be able to drive their press vehicles, especially on a track.

  • avatar

    An excellent article. I am thinking that Daytona in the dry is hairy enough without adding moisture.

    I had thought that running 1 mile (or less) ovals in the rain would be okay, because the speeds would not be as high. Jack’s point about the dry (or drier) line and getting off into the wetter line points out that this might not work at even at those track.

    So I will amend my thought to say – Road Courses and the few 1/2 mile ovals where speeds are not as high – use the rains.

  • avatar

    “Most journalists are twenty to forty seconds off the maximum safe pace on a two-minute track.”

    I’ll take your word for it, Jack. But that means they are not as good as a typical brand new racer at the conclusion of his first SCCA driver’s school.

    There have been exceptions, such as Car and Driver’s Pat Bedard. And I think you should give the benefit of the doubt to any journalist who is racing actively.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      As good as a brand new racer? LOL to the Z. Would that you could even put them in the same category.

      I do a lot of novice track instruction. Most journalists are slower than a TrackDAZE or NASA HPDE 1 attendee on his (or her) second day. By a considerable amount. Most of them are worse than drivers with no training at all, because they have built up horrifying habits driving brand-new ESC-equipped cars around chicaned road courses.

      The average SCCA novice roadie would lap a journo in four, maybe five.

      At the event I was at this weekend, they gave the guy ahead of me a 45-second headstart for a three-lap run around a 3.1 mile course. I caught him on the front straight to begin Lap 3. I’d never seen the course before. And this guy wasn’t lame by our standards: his line was good and he had his eyes up. He was just slow.

      I’m trying to think of the journos besides me who have taken a major-sanction flag in the past five years. Steven Cole Smith ran a freebie race in one of the inaugural Viper Cup races. There are a few guys like Pat Paternie doing SVRA events. There’s one bad-ass dude from Quebec who has some CTCC experience.

      When Skip Barber put out the call for journos with comp licenses in 2009, two people responded: me and an English Canadian.

      • 0 avatar

        Larry Webster, ex-C&D, now with Popular Mechanics used to race IT-whatever in a gen 2 CRX. he ran track days with a small group of guys I ran with years ago at Gingerman and wasn’t slow. we frequently have him in for special advanced technical discussion on the programs I support. he’s technically minded enough to ask (and explain) the right questions and isn’t any sort of sycophant from what I recall.

        a lot of the guys in the UK are actually fairly competent drivers, Chris Harris has run VLN series with some success, Sutcliffe was competitive (may have won, I forget) one of the TVR one-make series. the guy who does the Hockenheim and N’ring times for auto motor und sport, Horst something, seems consistent and repeatable, which is what you want a benchmark test.

        the C&D guys freely admit they are not that fast or consistent. I think it was Gilles who noted at an event I think you were at as well in Sonoma that the improvements made to the car were going to make it that much harder for them to not look bad. as will the recently posted ZL-1 and ZR1 VIR laps.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        I can think of a dozen guys in the business who *used to* race, from Tony Swan forward.

        The record shows that I held professional cycling licenses in both the NBL and ABA from 1992 to 2003. Any opinion I have on a modern racing bike is worse than useless now — it’s dangerously underinformed. :)

      • 0 avatar

        true enough. main point being that someone who wasn’t a complete mess in an organized race series (and as you know, there are plenty of those people too) is going to be far more likely to drive within their limits and be able to provide a meaninful review.

        it’s interesting that Jalopnik implied that they could have but didn’t send someone to VIR to drive the ZL-1. I guess they couldn’t get the guy from NYC who hadn’t driven a car in 6 months to make the trip. I recall that when asked, Wes noted that they never sent Ray to drive anything because he was completely pants at it. leave the dragoning and Caswell fluffing to him.

      • 0 avatar

        They did drive it elsewhere. And Ray was on my wave for the Camaro Convertible launch.

      • 0 avatar

        Pat Bedard from C&D crashed out at Indy a couple times and I think finished top-ten at a couple other CART events.

      • 0 avatar

        No kidding. I was shocked by the almost complete non-response to the offer of free racing at Mazda Raceway. I seem to recall Wes Siler having a scheduling conflict that weekend. Of course I then saw the average age of mainstream auto media at a recent event it all made sense. We’re talking traditional Buick/Cadillac market. Remember, Pat Bedard’s big crash at Indy was in the early 80’s. That ain’t just yesterday anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      “And I think you should give the benefit of the doubt to any journalist who is racing actively.”

      I would have agreed with that statement until I saw Adam Carolla trash several cars on “The Car Show”. For a self proclaimed car-guy and amateur racer, he seriously overestimated his driving skills.

  • avatar

    As much talent the drivers in Nascar are (they pay them big dollars) it’s a pity they run for cover when it rains even on the road courses. In the end you will never overcome the stigma that you cancel / delay a race until you can run in dry conditions then try to brag how much driving talent you have in your series only with an asterisk next to that statement.

    I also found that Michael Waltrip is even more annoying in the announcer’s booth.

    • 0 avatar

      #1 – the nationwide series has rain tires to run on road courses
      #2 – NASCAR tried rain tires in the cup series, ron fellows even won an event on rain tires
      #3 – rain setups(tires + wiper) proved to be economically unfeasible for the cup series simply because they don’t run enough road courses and were wasting tires

      but, hey, lets question their driving ability rather than talk about facts

  • avatar

    Driving a car with slicks or intermediates in wet conditions is a constant battle to judge conditions and come up with a slightly better answer than the guy next to you, who could kill you through idiocy at pretty much any moment.

    Having just been rear ended a full 3 seconds after coming to a gentle stop (yes, I should have been looking in my rearview mirror), this description could also apply to “commuting to work through a small town where traffic regularly stops and re-starts as people let each other turn into and out of side streets.”

  • avatar

    Great thoughts Jack.

    People forget (or aren’t told) that driving on a race track in the wet is different than driving on the street. Many/Most race cars leak some sort of oil/grease and there simply isn’t enough traffic on the track to wear away these lubricants.There is also the rubber to consider. THERE ISN’T CONSISTENT, PREDICTABLE TRACTION day to wet or wet lap to wet lap. As you said, the penalty for stepping out of line is very high.

    I recall driving my HPDE car off the track at 10mph at Road America in the rain. I knew it was slippery. I was driving straight, not accelerating or decelerating, and suddenly I was pointed off the track heading for a wall 10ft away at 1mph….which I hit very very slowly. Because of my belts, seats, and safety concerns, I could not Flinestone-stop the car.

    I didn’t like the way NASCAR released the pack after the cleanup. Racers weren’t sure of the surface and, because of the time it time it takes to get up to race speed, had to drive full speed through the loose surface. What NASCAR should have done was done an non-pace car yellow pace lap at a faster, but not full race, pace.

  • avatar

    Years ago I read a piece in one of the mags about a Laguna Seca track day for journalists who had been invited to try out the new Toyota Supra. Somewhere in the article we learned that none other than Dan Gurney was passing these guys while driving a Corolla. That was a lesson.

    Jack, why not teach young Brendan McAleer how to get around? Or have Skip Barber do it so we can read about it?

  • avatar

    > Real race fans, along with anyone else who has ever observed the
    > “competition” of F1 cars droning through four-minute laps when
    > standing water forms can also understand how boring it can be to
    > watch rain racing.

    Having been forced to sit through 450+ minutes of rain delay in Montréal this year, I can’t agree with this at all. It was worth ruining my camera. If somebody told me what to expect, I’d have waited another 12 hours to see that race.

  • avatar

    I like the occasional wet race. It adds some spice to the MotoGP season. Admittedly, they don’t run the motorcycles on superspeedways.

    • 0 avatar

      ++. I also remember seeing the AMA superbike guys (IIRC) practice up at Elkhart Lake in the rain. Talk about cojones…..

      I was also at the F1 in Indy a few years back where after a few laps all the teams dropped out except for 2 or 3 due to tire concerns. People were PISSED. Cars were going super fast with no traffic and it was BORING. I much would have rather seen them all going a bit slower with a lot more action than see 3 teams all on different parts of the track.

      So I’m not super familiar with Nascar. Can’t they change tires & switch to specialty tires for wet weather?

  • avatar

    “I don’t even see what you can learn about a car driving that slowly. You might as well rip it around a Wal-Mart parking lot and write that up. Most journalists would learn more from taking a set of passenger laps with a qualified driver and listening to what that person has to say.”

    Assuming TTAC’s quest is that auto journalism should give the right information to the majority of consumers, is this really true?

    I’d argue the semi-trained, semi-clueless driver (raises hand) is more likely to return a driving impression that’s meaningful to the likely buyer of a car like the ZL1, let alone a mid-level performance sedan. (Porsche GTx would be a different story)

    Just because they’re using a racetrack to do some driving doesn’t mean the guy pulling the fastest laps is writing the best review of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I’m coming from a similar place when it comes to guitar reviews: I don’t care if Yngwie thinks the fretboard isn’t properly scalloped for the fastest scales. I want to know if it’s durable and assembled correctly from high-quality materials.

      The problem is that the only reason to buy the ZL1 over the SS (or, whisper it, the V6) is raw speed. So if you want to know if it’s worth buying, you need to know how fast it is.

      • 0 avatar

        “The problem is that the only reason to buy the ZL1 over the SS (or, whisper it, the V6) is raw speed.”


      • 0 avatar

        In several ways, you’re right that an actual timed lap-day isn’t necessary for most of journos to evaluate a car. They’re nearly useless on track and they or their readers aren’t likely to take a new-ish performance car to the track in their spare time.

        The flipside is, a track is a hell of a lot more responsible way for an OEM to set a bunch of yahoos loose with their hipo cars. Aaron’s on-track dustup would’ve been much worse, had it been off the side of a cliff or into a nearby pedestrian.

        Of course, the background debate to this is WTF is anyone *but* the most-skilled driver doing behind the wheel of a 500++hp car?

      • 0 avatar

        I had a red 2010 V6 Camaro with 600 miles on it as a rental in Chicago back in May 2010 and I was really impressed with it. It felt at least as quick as my 5.7L Dodge Magnum, and the handling (some people will laugh) really reminded me of my old man’s ’97 M3.

        Anyhow, I may or may not have unleashed my inner Ferris Bueller by cruising the Camaro for a couple hours and putting off a dinner with the vendors I was there to see, but you’ll never get me to admit that in public.

    • 0 avatar

      I would argue that track performance is irrelevant to 99.999 percent of all car buyers, including me and most of the readers here. If you’re reviewing a car that’s going to actually be used on a race track to race, then the test driver ought to be a qualified racer. Otherwise, test it on the street. I remember way, way back when C&D tested a new 427 Cobra. As I recall it, that car would have been dangerous for the average drive to drive on the street, much less on a race track.

    • 0 avatar

      As Aaron Gold said in his review of the ZL1 published today Chevy will not void your warranty for racing “provided you don’t install a roll cage and participate in a sanctioned race”. Unlike other makers (Porsche) Chevy actually wants you to race their car – there is no other reason to buy this vehicle. How doesn’t it stand to reason then to only have race-experienced writers drive the thing? Or at least give a priority invite to the few that do?

  • avatar

    I think track features are kind of silly for most car reviews anyway. Better to give them a new car in Chicago, some basic directions and plan to be at Nepenthe in Big Sur three days later.

    And if any maker actually does that I want in.

  • avatar

    An excellent, well thought out article with a minimum of hyperbole. Who are you and what have you done with our JB? ;-} And your right, hiring Randy “The Rocket” Pobst was the best move MT ever made. A journalist who can drive … who ever woulda thunk it?

    • 0 avatar

      Didn’t realize Randy was writing for MT. Almost makes me want to get the mag.

      Okay, not really, but I really enjoy Randy’s articles in SportsCar (The SCCA monthly.)

  • avatar

    OR – we could just see what “the Stig” did on the UK version of Top Gear.

  • avatar

    Couldn’t there exist a place for NASCAR and IRL somewhere in between “standing water on the track, pouring rain, everyone dies if we race” and “it stopped raining a while ago but we need to run the track dryers for the next three hours before it’s safe to run”?

  • avatar

    One problem with the first argument (not touching the training and certification of journalists), is that the only F1 races that are entertaining are those run in the rain. Once they are not run in the rain, all the action happens on the first lap, and thereafter eveyone just circulates in their order to the end, modulo the typical pitstop jockeying. Everyone who watches F1 knows that. There were Kulons of electrons expended on discussing how to improve “the spectacle” in dry conditions. Remember the Center Downwash Generating Wing?

  • avatar

    Let me preface this by admitting that I am a die-hard F1 fan and I love it when a bit of moisture brings out the real talent. (See Scumacher = Rain Meister).
    Your description of why Nascar is unsafe in the rain, while valid, sounds to me like an extension of what Nascar is in the dry. A bunch of super powerful cars running in circles, trying to find the absolute limits of traction. The bravest win or hit the wall. I think many of the 80,000 fans you alluded to ARE of the “Watch the lions eat the gladiators” genre.

  • avatar

    Great post.

    –Now if it had just been written by a Golden Retriever…

    ++Forgive my ignorance, but aside from the diahrreal-explosiveness that was “Maximum Street Speed Explained”; Is there a set of posts here on TTAC about proper driving technique?

    -other than “Read Ross Bentley”? thx.

  • avatar

    It seems every Nascar race already features multiple high speed crashes. I don’t quite understand why crashes at lower speeds on a more slippery surface would be worse than the current ones. Anywhere that a driver could go into the wall on a wet track is a place that it could also happen immediately after contact at even higher speeds on a dry one.

    I enjoy when the rain appears during an F1 or MotoGP race. It makes the race less predictable and the impressive car/bike control becomes even more obvious to the viewer. Crashes are more frequent in those conditions, but usually less severe.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    You meet Catrinel Menghia. I am glad it was you and not me, because the heat would melt me.

    She is married?

    Life is no longer worth living.

  • avatar

    Brilliant account.

  • avatar

    Nascar wet or dry is boring round and round real race cars turn left and right and run in the wet IE Aussie V8 super cars NZ V8s and V8 supertourers if you cant race in the wet fuck off home and let those that can go

  • avatar

    Jack, thanks for the kind treatment.

    A couple of clarifications: This wasn’t a moderately-paced lap that simply went wrong. Would if it were.

    I was actually moving rather slowly. I was nervous about the lack of traction, I was distracted, and that led me to be way off the proper line. Next mistake: I was eager to get back into the slot, and had just paddled down to 2nd (yes, that lap was in an automatic car, sigh) in an effort to pick up the pace as I headed into the straight. Annnd, having done most of my track driving in sun or pissing rain, I did not realize that *freshly* wet is so much more slick than just plain wet, or that off-line would be so much slicker than on-line. I was genuinely taken by surprise at the way the grip just went away.

    Wrong place, wrong gear, too much power, insufficient experience to judge properly, and not enough traction or space to recover. Crunch.

    Oh, and one other important detail: I did *not* check what mode the ESC was in before I left. The driver before me may have turned it up to a less-intrusive level before my lap; I should have checked to see that it was set for wet traction (the ZL1 has 5 modes) or just left it full on.

    For the record, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I’ve done fast-ish laps in wet weather in high-power rear-drive cars, and driving with a reasonable amount of care, it went pretty well.

    This time, I got myself into a bad situation without even realizing I had done so. And that, as you correctly point out, is where the lack of experience comes in.

    I agree that many autojournos think their track skills are better than they are. I have never deluded myself about my own skill level, and I have never professed to be a better driver than I am. Although, it seems that even in this case, that wasn’t enough. As a friend said to me today, you can’t know that you don’t know what you don’t know.

    That said, I don’t necessarily agree that those without an SCCA license should only drive with on-board supervision. As I said, I do not consider myself to be a great driver, but I have some training and can get a car around a track at a reasonable rate of speed. When I drive on the track, I’m not looking to set records; I’m looking to evaluate the dynamics of the car in an environment where I need not worry about oncoming drivers, pedestrians and bicycles, blind corners, etc. It’s virtually impossible to safely drive a car at 10/10ths (or even 9/10ths) on an open public road.

    Back to my ZL1 crash: Experience is the best teacher. But I do wish I’d learned this particular lesson in my own car, not someone else’s.

    See you at the Spark event…


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