NASCAR will hold a wet-weather tire test session on Thursday, April 1 at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia, with the aim of figuring out whether rain tires could be feasible at some short racecourses. Plans for the test were first announced on Wednesday, with Chris Buescher and Kyle Larson set to drive the No.17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford and No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet respectively at the dampened racecourse.
NASCAR's competition officials are currently working at the Virginia racetrack to test the next-generation car which is to be used in the 2022 Cup Series, with Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota showing off their manufacturer-specific models at the venue.
Rain tires were first used by NASCAR in the 2008 Xfinity Series race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course in Montreal, Canada, while the Cup Series marked its first use of rain tires during the 2020 event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway roval.
NASCAR hopes to run short-track races in the rain
According to NASCAR's Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell, the intent of the test is to explore a wet-weather tire’s short-track potential, with the goal of returning to the race track in rainy conditions. At .526 miles, the Martinsville Speedway offers the shortest paved track on the Cup Series schedule.
After Buescher and Larson take to the track on Thursday, the NASCAR test organizers will wet the track and gauge traction levels, using feedback from the two drivers to evaluate the performance of the new tire, which, according to NASCAR officials, has different characteristics than the current rain tires used on road courses.
This isn't the first time NASCAR has tested a wet-weather tire at Martinsville Speedway. 1984 and 1996 NASCAR Cup Series champion Terry Labonte turned laps, also in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, back in September 1995. The session came just one month after NASCAR race officials announced plans to test rain tires at the Watkins Glen International road course in New York.