Cup teams surprised by tire wear, seek help from NASCAR
UPDATE: NASCAR announced competition changes for Sunday’s race after discussions with drivers, teams, track and Goodyear officials.
Some Cup drivers hope NASCAR gives teams an extra set of tires and adds a break in the final stage of Sunday’s dirt race at Bristol after excessive wear in Friday’s practice sessions.
“At Eldora we’ve run over 100 laps on a set of tires,” Chase Briscoe said of the Truck races on the dirt. “I didn’t think tires would even be a thought. It definitely surprised me.”
Said Alex Bowman: “The tire wear is a little concerning.”
Denny Hamlin said he expects NASCAR to make changes to help teams before the series’ first dirt race since 1970.
“I’d be surprised if they don’t change some sort of rule between now and then, either give us another set of tires or maybe another caution,” he said. “If they don’t, then we run on bald tires. We all run on bald tires. You just got to make sure you do it better than everyone else.”
Hamlin said he can feel within three laps that the rear tires had lost grip, but he also said: “I didn’t see it where someone just lost control because they were on a bald tire. It’s the same for everyone. You’ve got to do the best you can.”
The final stage Sunday is scheduled to be 100 laps in the 250-lap race. NASCAR previously changed the format for the race. Teams are not allowed to add fuel or change tires except during stage breaks. The field will be frozen during each stage breaks. Teams will maintain their running order provided they complete their pit stop in the time designated by NASCAR.
Since teams cannot gain positions on pit road, they are are leaving their pit crews at home. That has led to the request for an additional break in the final stage.
Kurt Busch explained in a video he posted to social media that “tires are struggling a little bit with excessive wear with a big heavy race car and a lot of horsepower.”
Briscoe said the track has contributed to the issues with the tires.
“It seems like red clay is just always more abrasive for whatever reason that is,” he said. “I think we probably need to do something. Our car, especially, it seems like after 20 laps and we’re already showing chords. Probably need to do something.”
The racing surface came from Tennessee. Steve Swift, senior vice president of operations and development for Speedway Motorsports, spearheaded the project. He explained in comments distributed by Bristol Motor Speedway earlier this month how the track determined to use the red clay.
“There is a lot of science to dirt racing and the type of dirt that you race on,” Swift said. “We had to look for different types of dirt, there’s a lot of red clay in the area, but there’s good red clay and bad red clay. We’ve talked with a lot of experts, to people who know a lot more about dirt than anyone would ever want to know about dirt.
“We took samples and sent them off to have them tested and found the right mixture. Once we found the right dirt, it was a matter of how to get it to the site in a timely manner. We found enough to cover the track and to have a great racing surface.”
Rudy Fugle, crew chief for William Byron, also is for an extra set of tires and a break in the final stage.
“Definitely think that 100 laps is stretching it (on a set of tires) right now, unfortunately, just the way the track is,” Fugle said. “It could get better, but it could be the same or worse.”