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September 20. 2013 10:30PM

They're watching the weather closely at NHMS


Most NASCAR haulers have weather detecting equipment like this one on a boom, right, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

LOUDON -- The weather forecast for this weekend may be cause for concern for racing fans heading to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, as rain is expected on Saturday night and Sunday.

But forecasters say the rain should end Sunday morning, which should give the speedway's elaborate road-drying system time to dry the oval track for Sunday's Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, which is scheduled for 2 p.m.

"We're watching that weather system very closely," said Tom Blanchette, director of operations at the speedway. "It looks like we should be fine for the big race."

Speedway officials monitor storms in the track's weather center, which is part of the NHMS Command Center in the offices atop the grandstand. The command center is a large room where track security planning and management takes place. It includes sections for local and New Hampshire State Police, the Department of Homeland Security, the state Bureau of Emergency Management, the FBI, and track security.

The weather center has three computers used to monitor weather radar uaing three Internet weather sites. The track also has a live Skype link set up to the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, so speedway officials can talk live with meteorologists if weather concerns rise.

An outdoor weather station, which monitors wind speed and other weather indicators, is also connected to the center.

If it's raining at race time, the race will be postponed, either to later Sunday or Monday.

"We watch closely for severe weather," Blanchette said. "We can't race in the rain."

When rain falls before a race, track crews can usually get the road dry quickly, he said, using the track's seven jet dryers, which are jet engines mounted on the back of trucks.

They also use several "tractor brooms," vehicles that have cold-air blowers mounted on back and brooms to push puddles away mounted on the front.

"We usually look at a two-hour window in terms of the time it takes to dry the track," he said.

This weekend, track officials are looking at a rainy, but favorable weather scenario for the races on Saturday and Sunday.

According to the weather service, rain from an incoming weather system should end by late Sunday morning.

If that happens, there will be ample time to dry the track for the race, Blanchette said.

"We have no reason at this point to believe the race will be delayed (by rain)," he said Friday.

dseufert@newstote.com


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