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Rain won't halt races; grooved tires help

By MIKE BRASSFIELD and TOM ZUCCO

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 2003


ST. PETERSBURG -- Severe thunderstorms might sweep through the Tampa Bay area on Saturday, but organizers of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg say this weekend's races will go on, rain or shine.

It's possible that rain might not arrive until after Saturday's race is over. Forecasters don't expect rain for Sunday's main event, the Grand Prix itself.

Forecasters predict a slight chance of light showers today, when race practices and qualifying runs are in full swing. They predict a 70 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms Saturday evening or Saturday night. The only race Saturday will be from 3:45 to 4:30 p.m.

"We can't be super-exact," said National Weather Service meteorologist Frank Alsheimer, "but probably the best chance for thunderstorms in the St. Petersburg area on Saturday would be after 4 p.m."

It will likely be sunny for Sunday's three races.

If it rains, drivers will switch from smooth, dry-weather tires to grooved tires that channel away water and cut down on hydroplaning, said CART spokesman Adam Saal. "You have to go slower in wet conditions," Saal said. "But that's slower in terms of racing. They'll still go in excess of 100 mph.

"Some drivers actually prefer the rain, especially if they had slower times in qualifying and have to start back in the pack."

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