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Heat and humidity sets up wild Rattler 250 at South Alabama

Matthew Bishop | STS

This will be the warmest, slickest Rattler 250 in history and the racing on Sunday will surely reflect it.

The signature event of South Alabama Speedway was originally scheduled to take place two months ago, March 19-21, but has been repeatedly postponed to this weekend due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, it’s ain’t spring anymore, and that will likely make for a wild 250 laps.

Outside pole sitter Jeremy Pate feels fortunate to start on the front row because he suspects the mid-pack will be chaotic due to the track conditions.

“Oh, it’s going to be crazy,” Pate said. “You’re going to race the racetrack first. For sure. Basically, this race is going to be survival for 200 laps and then put yourself in position in the last couple of restarts and go from there.”

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South Alabama Speedway is already challenging enough as is at 4/10-mile, but a heat wave rolled into the region overnight and stifling humidity will challenge the fitness of the competitors while also limiting the grip of their race cars.

Corey Heim, the winner of January’s CRA Speedfest event at Watermelon Capital Speedway, posted only the 16th best time due to a poor qualifying draw and will have to carefully navigate through the field in the first half of the race.

“I just have to stay smart,” Heim said. “We actually just had a team meeting about it. We have some pit strategy ideas. There are a lot of things that could happen. There’s a little bit of rain in the forecast so you never know. We are going to play it by ear, work through the field slowly, and see what happens.”

The Rattler 250 is already a challenging enough race due to the various tire strategies that play out over the course of 250 laps. Teams have 10 tires and will choose to take them at different times, mixing up the running order throughout the race.

These races are often decided by the timing of cautions and tire availability.

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And then there’s the heat and rain that has washed the rubber from the weekend off the surface, Stephen Nasse said.

“It’s going to be slicker and then it’s a matter of how much the rain effects the track too,” Nasse said. “Now if we run our 125 laps tonight in the Pro Late Model and if all the local divisions get their races in, they’ll rubber up the track.

“So, there are a lot of things to pay attention to.”

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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