Advertisement

Chicago Rain Turns NASCAR Grant Park 165 into Tire Test Case

auto jul 07 nascar cup series grant park 165
Chicago Rain turns Grant Park 165 into Tire TestIcon Sportswire - Getty Images
  • When the scheduled 75-lap race restarted after a 1 hour, 43 minute rain delay, NASCAR notified the teams what time the race would end.

  • Wet tires were needed for the restart, but now the question was how quickly the 2.2-mile track would dry and call for dumping the wets.

  • Tyler Reddick’s crew chief Billy Scott pitted him for slicks with about 15 minutes remaining in the race and Reddick charged from 13th to fifth.


For the second straight year, rain and impending darkness forced NASCAR to shorten the Grant Park 165 on the Chicago Street Course, and those conditions intensified the stress faced by the teams.

ADVERTISEMENT

Whether to use wet weather tires or dry weather slicks was a constant question. Then there was NASCAR’s new rule that turned the race into a timed event. Under the rule, NASCAR gives the teams a time that it will end the race. Once the race leader crosses the start/finish line after the time expires, the next lap will be the white flag, followed by the checkered flag. There is no overtime.

When the scheduled 75-lap race restarted after a 1 hour, 43 minute rain delay, NASCAR notified the teams the event would end at 8:20 p.m. CT. Wet tires were needed for the restart, but now the question was how quickly the 2.2-mile track would dry and which tires would be advantageous at the end.

Crew chief Blake Harris elected to leave eventual winner Alex Bowman on wet tires, while Tyler Reddick’s crew chief Billy Scott pitted him for slicks with about 15 minutes remaining in the race. Reddick charged from 13th to fifth in the final five laps of the 58-lap race.

“I was very fortunate to avoid a lot of the chaos that was happening around me, and I was able to advance my position because of it,” Reddick said.

However, Reddick hit a wall while running down Bowman and had to settle for second, 2.863 seconds behind the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

“We were catching Alex by a large margin. I clearly just screwed up,” a dejected Reddick said. “Turn 8 to turn 12, that part of the race track hadn’t been my best all weekend. Trying to stay in the dry groove and I had more than enough of dry groove, I cut the wheel a little too hard. It bent the wheel, and the right front was kind of wandering on its own the rest of the lap. At that point the gap formed back up because I didn’t want to drive into turn six and hit the tire barrier and finish last.”

nascar cup series grant park 165
Tyler Reddick nearly pulled off a comeback for the ages at Chicago.James Gilbert - Getty Images

Bowman’s victory snapped an 80-race winless streak and gave Harris his first win as a crew chief. His eighth career victory gave him a playoff berth and allowed Hendrick Motorsports to join Team Penske as the only two organizations with all of their teams qualified for the playoffs. There have now been 12 different winners this season. That leaves four playoff positions open via points with six races left in the regular season.

“I broke my back, had a brain injury, and we’ve kind of sucked ever since,” said Bowman, who hadn’t won a NASCAR Cup race since 2022. “You start to second-guess if you’re ever going to get a chance to win a race again.”

From the event’s beginning, crew chiefs were constantly having to make tire decisions. A shower before the race resulted in some drivers starting the race on wet tires, while others chose slicks.

“I think it was really tough at the beginning when we didn’t know if it was a little bit of rain coming,” Harris said. “That was probably the harder portion of the day, trying to understand how much it would rain and if we were OK to be back on slicks or not.”

Immediately after the teams were told when the race would end, Harris said their engineers began running numbers.

“You’ve got to throw in the dry pace, the wet pace, as the wet pace is getting closer to the dry pace, what’s that looking like,” Harris said. “I think just putting it in our hands lets us put some strategy out there.

"It’s great to have a few different ways to go about it.”