More NASCAR Races Like Bristol Are the Goal, and Goodyear Knows It

Drivers set themselves apart when tire management becomes a concern, and that's what made last Sunday's race a real show.
Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tire management makes short-track stock car races a whole lot more entertaining. Who could have known? With that monkey wrench thrown into teams’ strategies, Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol was arguably the best we’ve seen in years—better even than the recent dirt races at the track—and now people want more. That includes tire supplier Goodyear, which is looking at ways to recreate the same kind of dramatic wear with new compounds for future races.

Goodyear Director of Racing Greg Stucker told Road & Track that it’d be great to have the same type of excitement again. First, though, they need to find out why the tires wore like that in the first place. And once they’ve done that, they want to crank the wear down a notch so it isn’t quite so sudden. Tires were falling off after 40 to 50 laps, and a fuel run is supposed to be about 190 laps at Bristol, so a little more balance is desired.

Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“Right now we are evaluating the Bristol race to try to determine why the tire behaved differently than it did last fall,” Stucker said to R&T. “The drivers have been asking for higher tire wear to put more control in their hands by way of tire management, as well as with the crew chiefs to get the balance of the cars right. We tested at Bristol last June and took a step to create more wear and that’s what we brought for the September ’23 race with good results.”

Stucker continued, “After this past weekend, we just need to analyze why the track reacted differently than last fall—was there something different with the track prep, and we know that they applied resin in the corners as compared to PJ1 [another kind of grip-strengthening race surface compound] in the past. On Sunday, the wear mechanism was different for some reason. It wasn’t a structural issue with the tire itself—the tread was just wearing to where the grip went away.”

Some people had an adverse reaction to the tire wear at first, but Sunday’s Food City 500 winner Denny Hamlin was quick to reassure fans that it was a good thing. As Kelly Crandall at Racer points out, there’s no need to overreact. Hamlin said it’s “the first time the driver played a huge role in a long, long time.” I think we can all agree that’s a positive.

I understand some folks would rather have 1,000 horsepower on tap like Kyle Larson teased last week on The Dale Jr. Download. That may be easy for a top team like Hendrick, but it could give pause to other crews and even potential new manufacturers that would rather keep power levels more conservative. If there’s a way to hit the sweet spot on power and tires, the on-track package could make a huge jump in terms of entertainment value.

It will be a lesson in balance, no doubt. But if we can get more strategy and skill worked into Cup Series races on Sundays, I don’t think people will complain.

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