BRISTOL, Tenn. _ During Friday afternoon’s practice sessions for the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series at the Bristol Motor Speedway, the majority of the teams in the garage were experiencing extreme tire wear. With cords showing after 15-25 laps, NASCAR and Goodyear opted to change the compound for the right side tires in both series.
Following NASCAR’s announced change, Nationwide Series teams had another two hours and 50 minutes of practice, plus qualifying on the old compound. In addition, thanks to NASCAR’s impound policy, Nationwide teams will be required to race the first 25 lap of Saturday’s race on the old compound until a competition caution is thrown and teams are allowed to change right side tires.
Even if a caution were to fly prior to the 25-lap competition caution, NASCAR will not allow teams to change to the new compound. In addition, the teams will only be given four sets of the new compound and changing earlier than the 25-lap mark will increase the number of laps on the four sets of the new compound. If teams have unused sticker tires, they could return them to Goodyear for a credit.
Opinions on NASCAR’s decision differed greatly in the Nationwide garage Friday afternoon. Kenny Wallace said there was “some concern” about running the tire for 25 laps.
Brian Scott echoed those concerns. Scott, however, explained it was the crew chiefs that were probably more worried than the drivers.
Fastest in the day’s third practice session, Justin Allgaier explained teams would have to be extremely conservative in those first 25 laps. Standing next to tires showing cords after 27 laps, Allgaier said as the tire went away, the rear end of the car became extremely loose and got progressively worse on corner enter and corner exit.
Teammate Jason Leffler, on the other hand, questioned NASCAR’s decision to run the first 25 laps on the old compound knowing there were issues. Instead, he argued, NASCAR should allow the teams to qualify on the new compound Saturday morning and run the race on the new right side tires. Instead, Leffler indicated he would not mind leaving the current compound on the cars for the entire event, saying it would be like an old race at Darlington or Rockingham.
“The racing would be good, but the owners wouldn’t like,” he said.
What does not make sense is the fact the tires will arrive in Bristol prior to Nationwide Series qualifying, yet teams will still be required to use the old compound during qualifying and the start of the race. In contrast, the Sprint Cup Series teams, which also had the right side tire compound changed, will receive an extra set of tires to practice on during Saturday’s two final practices.
According to Nationwide Series director Joe Balash, the reason NASCAR is requiring teams to qualify and run the first 25 laps on the current compound is due to the fact the teams have had over five hours worth of practice on the current compound and have set their cars up accordingly. NASCAR, therefore, does not want an issue with the new tire compound to cause an issue in qualifying.
With teams practicing all day Friday and qualifying Saturday on the old compound, tomorrow’s race – once on the new compound – will be a bit of an unknown.
“It will be just like when I was running at Holts Summit in Missouri in my dirt car and you’d borrow a set of tires from this guy that were four years old, get one new tire because that’s all the money you’ve got that week,” Carl Edwards said. “You just race. We’ll all be racing on the same thing. It will be different, but it will be kind of fun though to try and figure it out. It’s racing. This is going to be interesting.”
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