Goodyear option tires a ‘solid attempt’ for Cup Series racing

Goodyear’s softer “option” tire used in the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway provided more data for the industry to digest going forward, even though it didn’t do as much as expected Sunday night.

“First, hats off to Goodyear and NASCAR, trying to do something different,” said Cliff Daniels of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team. “I do think a very genuine, a very solid attempt was there to try to do something different and unfortunately, kind of to everyone’s surprise, the tire didn’t have the fall-off, the degradation that we thought it would have — especially at the end of the one long run, the first segment, whatever you want to call it.

“I was expecting guys to have blisters and maybe the tires come apart and fade, and it just didn’t happen. So Goodyear was still almost making too good of a tire. It’s crazy, and there could be some margin there that we can take. I think steps like this are steps that we need to take any time we can to try to learn, and we all know we want to help the short-track package, and yeah, we’ll just keep learning.”


The weekend started well enough with a highly entertaining Friday practice session. Cup Series teams were given the choice of what tires they wanted to run during the 50-minute practice session, which resulted in varying lap times throughout the field. Goodyear brought its durable “primary tire” and the softer tire, red-lettered tired, designated the “option” choice.

Denny Hamlin was one of a handful of drivers who were optimistic after the session considering how the tire reacted and the way drivers were able to widen out the groove on a repaved racetrack. If nothing else, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said, “We had a fabulous practice session that looked like a race out there.”

But the weather Friday – hot and sunny – was different from Sunday night’s main event. The cooler temperatures during a night race provided more grip, and the softer tire didn’t fall off as expected based on what teams saw in practice.

Chris Gabehart of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 team praised Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith for the North Wilkesboro Speedway atmosphere and facility. Furthermore, Gabehart was impressed by the repave and how the racetrack had widened out. But if there one was thing Sunday night showed, it is that the short tracks on the NASCAR schedule aren’t what’s broken.

“The track is fantastic,” Gabehart said. “Then you get down to fall off and the differences in the tires and stuff. I think part of it is maybe the temperature – a night race versus a day race on the tire that’s getting super hot. That soft red, it wasn’t that it was wearing terrible, but it was getting really hot. When you lose 25 degrees of track temp that can be enough to maybe help it hold on. So, maybe a little bit of that.

“It’s not wearing enough and I know Goodyear’s working on it. I can’t imagine what they’re thinking right now; this is literally their rain compound, the softest thing they’ve ever made for a stock car that I know of and it’s just not enough.

“And lastly, let’s be very clear: it’s 100 less horsepower than the previous car, it’s a bigger tire, its independent rear suspension, it’s just got a lot more grip. It’s easier to drive, and they’re all the same. Certain cars and drivers always find their way to the front but it’s not a lot of disparity. That’s the same answer – you can sugarcoat it and beat around the bush all you want to, but you’re talking about the world’s best drivers and the world’s best teams, and you’ve made the cars easy to drive and optimization of the setup easier to achieve because the window is so much bigger from the horsepower to grip ratio.”

The conversation around pushing for softer tires, particularly on short tracks, after the March 17 race at Bristol Motor Speedway. It became one of the most talked-about races after unexpected high wear put pressure on teams and drivers to manage tires. And as NASCAR continues to face pressure to make short-track races more competitive, the tire variable has become the focal point.

Joey Logano led all but one lap in the All-Star Race and won from the pole. Ty Gibbs led every lap and won the All-Star Open from the pole.

“We didn’t think we’d see somebody run it that long and that hard and have it hold up that well,” NASCAR senior vice president of racing development John Probst told “So the good thing is, we’ve got some tire tests coming up here in the near future at Iowa and Martinsville, and we’ll just get more aggressive. We’ll keep stepping up on it. It’s always hard when we come to a track, and you practice in the daylight, you race at night, the track temperature has a lot to do with how the tires perform. So we’re going to stay at it. By no means are we done. We’ll get more aggressive.”

Story originally appeared on Racer