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NASCAR Cup Series

Option Tire Offered Nothing Special in All-Star Race

Despite the excitement going into the Monster Energy All-Star Race about two tire compounds being available, it didn’t live up to its hype.

Goodyear and Charlotte Motor Speedway announced last month that they would have a softer option tire for teams to use, in addition to the primary compound. While providing additional speed for a brief period, it would fall off quicker. With just one set available, teams would have to rely on their strategic plans to put those tires in play. 

It was believed teams would attempt to save the tires for the final segment, despite the penalty of having to start behind those who did not. However, drivers used their tires before the final 10 laps, and no clear benefit was seen. The same drivers remained up front throughout the night, no matter the compound, virtually eliminating the advantage it was expected to to produce.

While it may have been difficult for the fans to see the contrast, drivers felt a difference.  Jimmie Johnson said it was a big enough change for a short run to make something happen.

“It was actually pretty interesting that our car was noticeably faster with the option tire on it,” Joey Logano said. “It’s not night and day. It’s not like it’s a second, but it’s a couple of tenths at least, and it got us enough to get into the final 10 there for the 10-lap shootout.”

But what was originally established to create excitement, bred confusion instead.

Clint Bowyer‘s team chose to run the options for the second stage, finishing ninth. The No. 14 Ford then pitted under the caution, changing the right side tires to the spec compound, before restarting first. While the rules stated you could only bolt the softer tires on once during the event, there was nothing in the rules about keeping a pair on with a two-tire stop.  

“I read the entry blank before I showed up,” Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz said. “I had planned to do this the whole time.”

The strategy did not pay off, as Bowyer went from first to sixth on the restart, finishing 12th and failing to qualify for the 10-lap shootout.

“It was a good try,” Bowyer said. “Track position is key, and you try to do something to get track position, and you don’t have the upper hand. They’re better than you on that dead. I think if we would have had tires and started up front, we’d have been hard to handle tonight.”

Brad Keselowski also tested the rules, as he came down pit road at the end of stage two to put on his option tires. He had to return down due to loose lug nuts, with crew chief Paul Wolfe ordering the team to put the primaries back on the car. The plan for the Team Penske team to re-glue the lug nuts on, saving them for the final segment.

However, with the rules stating, “One (1) set of ‘Soft’ tires will be available for each team to use at their discretion during the Monster Energy All-Star Race. When choosing to put on ‘Soft’ tires it MUST be a full set of ‘Soft’ sticker tires,” they were unable to do that.

Down a set, Keselowski stayed out to restart first for the 10-lap shootout, falling back immediately to finish ninth.

Even though the first attempt at two compounds did not pan out as expected, drivers were encouraged by what they saw, considering it as a possibility for the future. Kyle Larson felt Goodyear could even take it a step further, bringing a tire with even more grip .

“We see it work in Formula One.  We see it work in IndyCar,” Johnson said. “I think the garage area – obviously it’s pretty new, but has a favorable opinion of how this went tonight. Personally, I don’t have a problem with trying it.  Really don’t.  I mean, it’s better than having a button that makes the wing go down or a button that gives you more horsepower.  I think it’s, you know, a good way, a competitive way, not in a gaming sense, just a competitive way to create different pace cars in the field.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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By Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.