Iowa unknowns has Cup Series teams learning on the fly

The unknowns of racing at Iowa Speedway caught a handful of NASCAR Cup Series teams by surprise through tire issues in Friday’s 50-minute practice session.

Ty Gibbs was the first driver to encounter a problem approximately 11 minutes into practice. Fortunately, Gibbs was coming off Turn 2 when the right front tire went down and kept it off the wall. Gibbs said there was no indication of a problem before it happened.

Gibbs was one of three Toyota drivers who had right-front tire issues. Christopher Bell hit the wall in Turn 4 when his tire went down, and Bell is now in a backup car for the remainder of the weekend.


“(It) just seemed like it went down,” Gibbs said. “There wasn’t any telling that was going to happen. We made some setup adjustments that will probably help that out, but don’t know anything about it until it went down.”

Tyler Reddick caught his right-front tire issue before it became a significant problem, and he parked his car on pit road during the final minutes of practice. Reddick theorized that the cause of his problem might have been air pressure.

There were five drivers in all who had tire problems during practice. Austin Cindric, in a Ford, hit the Turn 1 wall when his right front tire went down. Cindric will also be in a backup car for the rest of the weekend.

The outlier was Chevrolet driver Ross Chastain, who had a flat left-rear tire. Chastain stopped his car on the backstretch before the tire started to do any damage to his car. When asked if he was surprised about the issue and concerned about Sunday’s race, Chastain said he was neither of those things.

“There’s no telling what happens,” he said. “We went back out and made more laps on another set. I went out and ran my fastest lap, like, five laps later.”

All of the failures occurred within a 20-lap run. Bell was particularly confounded considering the tire for race weekend is the same one that was run during the Goodyear confirmation test (which he participated in) at the end of May. During the test, Bell said teams made 50 lap runs without issue.

“It caught me off guard, and I know that it caught my team off guard, as well,” Bell said.

Saturday morning, as Cup Series teams went through inspection, one crew chief theorized that the failures resulted from all the unknowns. Cup Series teams do not have a notebook on Iowa, and a NASCAR national series race has not been run at the track in five years. NASCAR also repaved sections of the corners.

Goodyear doesn’t believe it’s a wear issue but instead the dynamics of a new racetrack and setups. In practice, teams ran one second faster than the three drivers (Bell, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson) ran during the test. As a result, the recommendations Goodyear sends to the teams – based on the test – that lead to how teams set air pressure and camber on the cars likely need to be adjusted based on current track conditions.

“I think everyone has some concern,” Joey Logano said about going into race day. “I can’t honestly say it’s on Goodyear. It’s probably the teams being too aggressive. It’s kind of like it was when we first started with the Next Gen car and shoulders were blowing out. It seems like that’s what it is. Air pressure and camber and load through the tires seem like the piece that gets them, and there are some pretty good bumps on the straightaway that I’m sure are working the shoulder a fair amount.

“The fix is what I just said but the bad part is it makes your race car slower. So, pick your poison, I guess.”

Story originally appeared on Racer