CONCORD, N.C-- Going into the Monster Energy All-Star Race, the talk was about the new “option” tire that Goodyear was bringing to help spice and liven up the All-Star Race. According to Goodyear, the “option” tire was supposed to fall off drastically after six to eight “at-speed” laps. However, the option tires balanced out with the primary tires during the short 20 lap segments.
Before the first stage began, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott ran the “option” tires in an effort to gain track position. Suarez started from the 19th position, but was the only driver to make the most gains using the option tires in the day time. Suarez gained eight positions in the opening stage.
Although Suarez gained the most positions with the tires, many drivers only saw a gain of one to two positions using the “option” tires.
With the option tires, came a strategy NASCAR could not have imagined.
Between the second and third stages, Mike Bugarewicz, crew chief for Clint Bowyer, put on two “Prime” tires and two “option” tires on the car. On the radio, Ryan Blaney was furious about what had transpired with Bowyer. Per NASCAR, the move was totally legal. The move was legal because the team had put on the four “sticker” sets of the “option” tire before leaving two on the race car. Bowyer was able to get off pit road in the first position, but once the race restarted, he quickly fell to the back.
“It was a good try. Track position is key and you try to do something to get track position and you don’t have the upper hand. They’re better than you on that deal. I think if we would have had tires and started up front, we’d have been hard to handle tonight,” said Bowyer, after he was eliminated. “We were a good car all night long, it’s just this format and the way the race is. You can’t complain about it because it is what it is. It’s the All-Star Race and everybody wants to be a part of it, it’s just unfortunate that your hands are tied.”
Brad Keselowski tried to play a similar move in the break between the second and third stage. However, the move he made was deemed illegal. When Paul Wolfe and the No. 2 team put the “option” tires on, they came back down pit road to put the “prime” tire back on the car after two laps under the caution. NASCAR told the team that they would be unable to use the “option” tire. Keselowski had to run the race on his last set of primary tires. The team missed two lug nuts when the placed the “option” tires on.
“Definitely a tough finish tonight for the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. We had loose lug nuts after the second stage and having to come back down pit road to tighten those definitely altered our strategy. We just have to regroup this coming week and be better for the 600,” Keselowski stated post-race.
After the race, drivers assessed the “option” tire based on a longer run compared to a short run.
“They weren't bad. I mean, the trend of handling from my car was the same on the yellows versus the greens. I didn't see a huge shift in trends over the run and balance change. So it just had a bit more grip and went faster for a short period of time. I think it ended up in the same spot as the yellows did,” said Jimmie Johnson, who finished third on Saturday night.
The run that I was the leader, Jimmie was on the options, I felt like he closed on me to about the six‑ to eight‑lap mark, then I started pulling back away. The run that I was on the green tire, there was a lot of us on the green tire. I was kind of at the speed that they were at,” said Kyle Larson, who finished second. “We were catching Jimmie, who was on the regular tire. I don't know. Everybody's cars drive differently and stuff. I felt like the handling of it stayed pretty good, though, throughout the 20 laps. I don't know how the lap time looked 'cause I was battling people, so I wasn't really looking at my dash to see what I was running. Yeah, so I don't know.”
Although the initial test of the option tire was not up to par, it could potentially be used in points-paying events after more research and development.