The speed of racing makes it especially vulnerable to weather conditions. A race car is designed to capitalize on side and forward bite—connection of tires to track is essential. From drag to dirt to paved–the impact of weather is a concern to track directors and fans as well. In large associations, such as NASCAR, rain may force a winner to be declared before race completion or the race may be moved to the next day(s) when weather conditions clear. The obstacles created by adverse weather on race day are something all tracks must be aware of and plan for.
Dirt Track Racing
While treads for asphalt races are designed to be smooth—treads for dirt racing are grooved to adjust to the sometimes rough and rutted race tracks. The permeable nature of dirt tracks creates a different scenario for rainfall. Dirt tracks are sprayed with water to control the level of tackiness. Yet, a deluge of rain prior to racing can leave the track too muddy for racing without enough time to dry out prior to the race’s start and cause cancellations. Excessive rainfall during the event or heavy accumulation days up to an event can cause delays or cancellation as well.
Rain in any amount can have disadvantageous consequences for asphalt tracks, and racing commonly comes to a halt until conditions improve. Rain prior to or during an event can cause a delay or even a cancellation. NASCAR has begun using Air Titan, 2.0 a track-drying technology, to reduce delay time after rain has stopped to quickly resume racing. Still, this technology is not sustainable in smaller markets with a cited cost of “more than $50,000 for a weekend.” Track’s losses are substantial when adverse weather strikes and these cancellations become inevitable. A rain check can lessen consumer concerns—but resuming racing at a later date for booked tracks and for amateur, semi-professional, and professional drivers is a complicated affair. Sometimes consumers’ tickets can be transferred to later races—but that is not always the case and this can further create more difficulties.
Weathering It All
Race seasons run predominately from early spring through late summer—with some races extending into fall and winter. A long season exposes track owners, drivers, and fans to varying inclement weather scenarios. The unpredictable nature of weather makes determining these types of weather scenarios akin to peering into a crystal ball. Unfortunately, an indecisive decision or untimely one can further result in frustrated drivers and crews as well as incensed fans forced to deal with delays and cancellations. Declaring cancellation is not an easy call for any race director. Industry has responded to this weather problem–meteorological teams and websites wholly devoted to aiding race directors in determining the potential impact weather will have on race day are on the rise. Additionally, weather insurance products have been utilized to alleviate some of the financial impact weather can have on tracks.
Weather insurance is a highly specific and tailor-made product designed to satisfy a business’ need to mitigate against adverse weather impacts. Weather perils such as excessive rainfall, days that are too hot, days that are too cold, wind, or a combination of elements can be insured against to lessen potential risk. These products have also served as a source for marketing a track. For example, Atlanta Motor Speedway is again offering “Perfect Race Weather” for their NASCAR 2017 Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 weekend. The “Perfect Race Weather” guarantees that if the temperatures are too cool, observed to be below 50 degrees, fans will receive a credit for future races. This alleviates many weather worries for fans who purchase tickets prior to race day and creates greater interest in a race. However, weather insurance can surpass this type of guarantee. If a policy was designed to be triggered by temperatures below 50 degrees, and temperatures are observed by the National Weather Service to be below this threshold a payout will occur. The payout can be utilized to reimburse fans or anyway the insured sees fit. With weather insurance, a track can offer refunds if cancellation occurs because of a specific measured event(s) and create highly marketable campaign with this type of guarantee.
One can be certain that perfect weather on race day will never be a certainty. Yet, the opportunity to make prepared and educated decisions on how to operate despite the weather is becoming customary to industry. Utilizing meteorological data, keeping fans aware of cancellation policies, and lessening revenue losses through weather insurance products allows tracks to get the upper-hand on adverse weather conditions.