Corey Lajoie is ready to race in the rain at Chicago

(Photo: Owen Johnson)

Rain has thrown the Chicago Street Race upside down. It’s canceled the concerts, cut short the Xfinity Series race, and sent NASCAR scrambling to dry the track in time for the Cup Series headline event.

One driver who isn’t concerned with racing in the rain is Corey Lajoie. He’s already raced on rain tires in the Cup Series before on road courses, and he expects it to go smoothly enough.

“We’ve raced the rain at the [Charlotte] Roval, and we’ve raced the rain briefly in some other spots,” Lajoie pointed out. “It’s definitely about risk-reward… or stupidity, whatever you want to call it.”

But he doesn’t expect much stupidity from his competition.

“I don’t think it’ll be very aggressive at all,” Lajoie said. “I think you’re going to have a couple of guys that feel confident in the wet and attack. Guys like AJ… [Shane van Gisbergen]’s going to be good, he’s going to be tough… But then again, guys like Denny.”

“Guys who have clean air and good visibility can attack and really learn the thresholds of grip and not have to worry about anybody in front of them,” he added. “I don’t know. I think the level of aggression’s going to be a little bit lower than people expect.”

That’s especially because the difficulty ramps up in the rain.

“If there wasn’t any margin for error to begin with in the dry,” he said, “there certainly isn’t going to be any in the wet, and if you lock a tire up or you make a mistake, it could end your day pretty quickly.”

Though he feels like he knows the track after simulation and practice, Lajoie is still looking to learn some aspects of the track in the opening laps, especially regarding grip levels in the wet.

“I feel like after fifty minutes of practice you start to figure it out,” he said, “but just really figuring out what areas you’ve got to attack and what areas you’ve got to be a little bit conservative on, I’m still learning all that. It’s going to drive completely differently today in the wet too.”

Still, he doesn’t expect it to rain for long, with the forecast calling for clearer skies to come, although the start will still be “interesting.”

“The way the weather’s looking, it looks like it’s going to dry out, so you’re going to get a dry line, and you’re going to get slicks on,” Lajoie said.

Though he does see the race as an opportunity to continue on his streak of good runs on road courses, he doesn’t harbor any expectations of winning, instead planning on “playing it safe” and “staying in contention.”

But regardless, he’ll be enjoying it, even if the weather could be better.

“It’s cool,” Lajoie said. “It’s a big moment for the sport to come here, right downtown, close the streets, and have some fun.”

Owen Johnson