Goodyear befuddled by 'drastic' change in Bristol tire life

Greg Stucker acknowledged that tire wear is a good thing in a NASCAR race, but the amount seen Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway was unexpected and too much.

“I would agree [that] tire wear is always the goal,” Stucker, Goodyear director of racing, said during a visit to the media center during the final stage of the Food City 500. “That’s what people wanted to see. It creates comers and goers and who manages tires the best. But we thought we were in a really good spot last year with the tire as we raced it in the fall and something is different now. So this is too drastic.”

Cup Series teams experienced high tire wear and cording right from the green flag Sunday. It left drivers slowing down the pace of the race to conserve rubber, trying to make it an entire run on fuel without issue. However, a rash of incidents and cautions resulted in NASCAR allowing Goodyear to release an extra set of tires to the teams early in the second stage.

There were 10 sets of tires available to the teams entering Sunday’s race. In addition to having nine sets for the race, teams could carry over one set from qualifying.

“We tested here last year with the intent to come up with a tire package that generated more tire wear — that was the request from NASCAR and the teams,” Stucker said. “We feel like we had a very successful test. We feel like we had a very successful race in the fall of last year because we did exactly that. We ran a full fuel stop [and] definitely saw wear, but we thought it was spot on. So now we’re trying to understand what’s different — why is the racetrack behaving differently this weekend than what it did a year ago?”

The extreme cording was a result of the track not taking rubber.

“If you look up in the corners, the tire rubber is being worn off and it’s just not adhering to the racetrack,” Stucker said. “That’s why you see all the marbles up in the corners. And again, last August, it took rubber immediately. As is typical with concrete, you run around under caution it’ll pick it back up. We see that at Martinsville, we see that at Dover, we see that here. But immediately when we go back green, it lays back down and that’s just not happening.”

Goodyear brought the same left-side tire code that has run at Bristol since the fall of 2022. The right side debuted at Bristol in the fall (after the test Stucker mentioned).

“It’s the same [race] package. It’s the same tire combination,” Stucker said. “Obviously, the difference is resin was placed on the lower groove instead of the PJ1. Yet I still think the racetrack should be taking rubber as it did last year. It took rubber immediately during that race.

“It’s still a bit of an unknown as far as why it’s not behaving the same — that being the racetrack. But that’s kind of what we know now. Obviously, everybody is kind of in the same boat but some guys are able to manage through it a little bit better than others. It’s still a tough situation, and we’re going to have to try and understand exactly what’s happening, what’s different, and adjust from there.”

NASCAR had the resin sprayed through the lower groove at Bristol since the track had become top-lane-dominant in years past. It was applied to the track at the start of the weekend and reapplied Sunday morning following the Saturday night Craftsman Truck Series race.

“Everybody got together and expressed concern [about tires], but we decided to wait and see what happened with the truck race,” Stucker said. “The truck race went exactly like we expected it to – it put rubber down immediately, tire wear was in line with what we have historically seen, so it’s a little bit unclear as to why we’re not seeing that same thing today.”

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