Originally created 03/06/03

Team will examine weather at races



HAMPTON, Ga. - When the NASCAR Winston Cup Series moves to the Atlanta Motor Speedway every spring, two things come to mind: fast speeds and weather.

Ten years ago, the race was postponed six days by a blizzard that dumped eight inches of snow on the race track. Four races since have been hampered by rain.

With that in mind, the American Meteorological Society will send 20 members to study the way weather and racing influence each other.

Some of the things they will examine are the effect barometric pressure has on tire pressure and how temperature changes the way cars maneuver around the 1.54-mile, high-banked speedway.

"I've always been fascinated about how wind and temperature and all of these things affect speed and drag and downforce," said John Wetherbee, a meteorologist at Atlanta's CBS affiliate. "We all know it happens, but we want to understand the how and why."

The team of weathermen will focus on the ARCA Re/Max Series car of Doug Stevens. He's a three-time Legends Series champion at the speedway who's trying to move through the ranks in stock cars.

"These cars change drastically with weather, and we've been experimenting for years with how to make them better in different conditions - wind, cold, heat," Stevens said. "It will be fun to put our knowledge of racing with their knowledge of weather. Who knows? I might get a few tips I can use down the road."

Three-time Winston Cup champion-turned television analyst Darrell Waltrip said he thinks the turbulence created by 43-cars at high speed effects weather systems as they pass over a raceway. That's something the team of meteorologists quickly discount but are willing to watch.

HIGH SPEED HOOKY: The principal at Slidell Junior High in Slidell, La., will be playing hooky Thursday and Friday.

Kim Crosby will be at the Atlanta Motor Speedway making her ARCA Re/Max Series debut in Saturday's ARCA 400.

"Let's not encourage them (to skip school)," Crosby said of her students during her absence. "I told the kids they were welcome to bring their parents and come up Friday after school if they wanted to see me race on Saturday.

"My kids think it's so cool that their principal does something outside of school. They come in and ask questions about racing. It's nice to have something besides school to talk to them about. It helps me reach a lot of the kids I might not ordinarily reach."

She hired NASCAR legend Dave Marcis as a consultant and mentor. He will be on pit road during the race giving her instructions.

"They know their stuff," Crosby said. "Mr. Marcis' help has taken so much pressure off me."

RAP AND ROLL: Rapper Nelly will become a car owner on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

His representative said the Grammy-winning singer will buy into a team co-owned by Billy Ballew and the new team, called Vokal Racing Team, will debut March 7 at the Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Michael Warmack will operate the Atlanta-based team. While Andy Houston will drive at Darlington. They hope to hire a minority driver in the future.

PIT STOPS: Kingsford Charcoal was selected as the top sponsor on the NASCAR Busch series by Street and Smiths Sports Business Journal. The charcoal maker has sponsored ST Motorsports since 1998. ... The road that connects Mooresville with Kannapolis has been re-named State Road 3 - Dale Earnhardt Highway - by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.net.