BROOKLYN, Mich. (WLNS) — The NASCAR Cup Series will take the green flag at the Michigan International Speedway a few short days from now. As a meteorologist, I wanted to learn how the forecast plays a role in strategizing for race weekend. As 2018 Daytona 500 Champion Austin Dillon explains, understanding the weather plays a critical role when racing for the checkered flag.
Austin Dillon knows a thing or two about putting together a winning run, and he understands that a knowledge of weather is required to be competitive in NASCAR.
“You know, if you have a long-run car, you want the track to be a little slicker,” said Dillon. “I think a hot weather condition is good for that. If you have a short run car, you want it as cool as possible, the most grip as you can get in the track. The cooler the weather, the tires like it.”
He says that the correlation between weather and tire wear is integral to car performance.
“That’s everything. It’s the only four things that are touching the ground for us, so we really think about weather when it comes to tire pressure and just keeping up with grip in the track and the tires change drastically with heat,” said Dillon.
Dillon captured a win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2018 at MIS thanks to a rain-shortened race. He says watching the radar is critical when the weather turns threatening.
“You definitely want to know after that second stage, if there’s rain coming at an oval, the race is going to be shortened more than likely if there’s not a window,” said Dillon. “So you try to put yourself in as best track position as you can and try to maintain it, hold onto it, and, yeah you might be doing a rain dance in that situation.”
While his first win in the Cup Series came from a rain-impacted race, he also knows what it’s like for things to not go as planned.
“We’ve also flipped at the end of one of those long rain-shortened races at Daytona so, you just never know what’s going to happen, what the night is going to bring in those situations, so you just keep your mind in it and stay focused.”
Four of the last six August races here at MIS have been 85 degrees or warmer, and the forecast for Sunday looks to be the same.
Meanwhile, Austin Dillon sits just one spot below the cut-off line for the NASCAR playoffs with just two races left in the regular season. If he hopes to punch his ticket into the championship hunt, he’ll have to plan for a hot, slick race track come Sunday.