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Pole-sitter Kurt Busch among drivers watching out for windy race

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LAS VEGAS -- As drivers continue to work to get a handle on the new reduced downforce aerodynamic package, they might have to deal with an extra element in the Sprint Cup race Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The wind.
The National Weather Service predicts winds of 26 mph with gusts of 39 mph for Sunday afternoon. Teams practiced Saturday with winds about 14 mph.
"When you have a tailwind [down the backstretch] multiplied by 30 mph, that is a headwind of 30 mph down the front straightaway," said pole sitter Kurt Busch, who expects the wind to come from a southwest direction and push the cars into Turn 3. "That is a swing of 60 mph. That is a significant difference that these cars are going to feel.
"We have tested Nashville a few times way back in the day where there was a crosswind of 40 mph. The downforce increase and decrease is staggering. We are all going to be out there struggling, fighting and trying to gain that grip with the tailwind."
While that swing will be huge for the drivers to handle, the car won't necessarily be better with the push from the wind and worse going into the wind.
"A crosswind in a corner can add or take away from the side force on the car and a headwind into the corner can give you a lot of added downforce or vice versa a tailwind can take it away," said Penske driver Brad Keselowski. "All three of those effects are hard to explain to people as well because you would think that if the air hits you blowing one way, it is X advantage, and if it hits you the opposite way, it is X disadvantage.
"Because aerodynamics are inherently inefficient it always affects you in a worse manner than it does in a positive manner."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after the Daytona 500 that the wind impacted the handling of the cars, which appeared to snap around at times.
Fans could see the same thing Sunday.
"A lot of times it just jumps out of nowhere on you and the car just takes off," said Joey Logano, who will start second. "If you are already right on that edge a lot of times, it doesn't take but a little bit to push you over that edge when you are right on it.
"When you think of 30 mph winds, that is a big deal."

Pockrass: Windy in Sin City? Drivers say watch out
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Gluck: Wind could wreak havoc on Las Vegas Sprint Cup race


LAS VEGAS — When Las Vegas Motor Speedway Polesitter Kurt Busch looked at the forecast for Sunday’s Kobalt 400, one word immediately came to mind.
“Gnarly,” he said.
For real, bro.
The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory for the Las Vegas area on Sunday afternoon during the scheduled race time (it’s set for a 12:46 p.m. Pacific time, 3:46 p.m. ET green flag), which could give drivers a unique challenge.
Wind gusts of 35 to 40 mph are expected along with 20 to 30 mph sustained winds. There might be scattered showers, but it’s the wind that has grabbed the drivers’ attention.
“It is going to be dangerous, treacherous for sure,” Joey Logano said.
Brian Neudorff, a meteorologist known as the unofficial NASCAR weatherman on Twitter (@NASCAR_WXMAN), said he could not recall a race where strong wind was the primary weather phenomenon in the forecast.
“I don’t think there’s a precedent, at least from my experience,” he said. “Usually when we get wind, it’s wind with rain, so the rain is the bigger concern and we’re not really factoring wind into the situation.”
NASCAR will halt a race for rain, since drivers can’t race with non-grooved tires on a wet track. But wind? Game on.
Logano, who starts second, said the cars are already on the edge of crashing in order to get maximum speed. So when wind gusts come into play? Look out.
“What we do hope is that it is a constant wind,” Logano said. “The gusts of wind are what crashes cars. … If you get big gusts, the car jumps out of the racetrack and leads you into the wall or spins you right out. It is going to be just crazy to think about what that wind is going to do.”
Busch said the direction of the wind could play a major factor in the race. Drivers might get a boost going toward one turn and get slowed into another, creating large differences in speed.
“The downforce increase and decrease (from the wind) is staggering,” Busch said. “We are all going to be out there struggling, fighting and trying to gain that grip with the tailwind.”
Brad Keselowski said he’s often asked how the wind affects cars. He described it like this:
-- “Think of a race car like an upside-down airplane wing. Instead of making lift, it makes downforce. Just by that simple analogy, the cars are of course dramatically affected by air.”
-- “The cars rely on three key aero forces: Drag, downforce or side force. The wind, depending on where it strikes, where it blows you in what direction, can affect all three of those.”
-- “Because aerodynamics are inherently inefficient, it always affects you in a worse manner than it does in a positive manner. It is impossible to be as helpful on one end as it is hurtful on the other end.”
It might sound complicated, but Keselowski said the short version is this: “You have to pull up your pants and drive around.”
It’s common in NASCAR for drivers to shrug off factors outside their control by saying all their competitors will have to deal with the same thing. That might be true for a sustained wind, but the wind gusts will be much more random.
And that might get messy.
“I am sure cars will crash for that reason if it is that windy and you get a gust at the wrong time when you are under somebody,” Logano said. “It could be big.”

Gluck: Wind could wreak havoc on Las Vegas Sprint Cup race
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If it does what they're anticipating I think it's a safe bet it's going to catch someone in contention out at some point and screw up their day. I'm sure Jared Turner of Fox Sports is geared up to use "Mary Poppins" in his story about it.
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