CONCORD, N.C.— After the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with the help of Goodyear, NASCAR, and Speedway Motorsports Inc. officials, Michael Waltrip was able to take laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway to test the difference between the “prime” and “option” tire being used in the Monster Energy All-Star Race on Saturday night. Waltrip ran one lap at speed on the “prime” tire and multiple laps on the “option” tires.
Goodyear has allocated teams in the All-Star race the use on one set of the “option” tires to be used on Saturday night. The option tire is a softer tire compound compared to the prime tire. The addition of this tire allows for strategy to be played during the race. If teams choose to use the option tire for the final segment, they will start behind those who took the primary tire.
Goodyear officials believe the option tire will be a half a second faster than the primary tires. However, they will fall-off within a few laps.
When Waltrip ran laps after practice, he explained the difference he could tell with the tires.
“The difference was how much harder could I run because it’s not set up like our cars Saturday night, for sure. When it hit bumps on the primary, it chattered across them. I wasn’t going to spin out. I ran through the bumps under control. When we put those (option) on, I was able to go across the same bumps, feel the same uneasy feeling, but no chatter. You could feel the same bumps, but the tires didn’t let the car go out from underneath me,” said Waltrip.
Waltrip was unable to feel tire fall off, but believes drivers will feel a fall off within six laps from running at speed.
“I didn’t run enough laps. I don’t think I could get them to with the speed I was running. They’re going to be going 20 to 30 mph faster in the corner. They’ll go away in a hurry, you can guarantee that. I think they will be perfect for six to eight laps then you hang on. Hopefully you have a gap if you are able to use them in a timely fashion and take advantage of them,” said Waltrip.
Although his laps were not at the speed drivers will be running, Waltirp could tell the difference in the tires.
“There is definitely more grip in these tires. You can run as fast on the primary for one lap as you could on the optional because they’re new. after a couple laps, the greens will still go fast and then fall off. Then it’ll switch,” said Waltrip. “The optionals will wear out and the primary’s will have more longevity. I can’y wait to see what they do.”
During practice, Ryan Newman ran 10 consecutive laps on the “option” tire. Based on the calculations of Speedway Digest, Newman was 5.702 mph slower than when he first started. During the only practice session of the weekend, Kyle Busch used the “option” tire to practice entering onto pit road, which will have no speed limit for qualifying. Speculation arose that Ky. Busch did so to help simulate conditions during qualifying.
After practice, Stu Grant, General Manager for Goodyear, was made available to talk about what Goodyear saw during the practice session. Grant stated that Goodyear saw a steeper curve on the falloff for the “option” tire compared to the prime, “It looked to me that the rate of falloff was higher on the option tire. It seemed to fall off on a regular lap by lap basis although it was a little more of a falloff than the prime.”
Goodyear and NASCAR began discussion about using a softer tire began last season in September.
“We have obviously had that discussion with NASCAR. If you go back to the original discussion we had with NASCAR about this whole option tire scenario. It was a conversation we had with them back in September of last year. Our reaction was, ‘Let’s come back to you with questions. What’s our objective? What are we trying to accomplish? What are we going to run?’, a whole series of questions. The bottom line is we are going to go ahead and see what will happen tomorrow night and then have some additional discusions with NASCAR to see if that is what they are wanting to do. But, an option with more grip in a points race that has to last a gas stop is a whole different discussion than one that lasts 20 laps.”
When asked about what the option tire would do after it heats and then cools, Grant was quick to answer. “I think the performance in this situation will be similar to the prime. You will see similar type of falloff,” said Grant.
With three sets of primary and one set of option tires, teams do have the option to not use the “option” tire. “You can do that. You only have three sticker sets of prime and one option. So, you would need to run your prime setup for two segments,” said Grant.
As the weekend progresses, teams will be strategizing when the best time would be to use the optional tire during the Monster Energy All-Star Race. The race will be broadcasted on Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1 at 8:00 p.m. EST tonight.