“If we don’t get anymore tires, it’s going to be really hard.”
This weekend, the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track is hosting the NASCAR Cup Series. It’s the first NASCAR dirt race since 1970.
On Friday, drivers took to the track for two rounds of practice. Many were shocked to see the tires burning off in 20 laps.
That’s an interesting situation, given Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race will be 250 laps. The final stage of the race will be 100 laps.
This race is different from traditional NASCAR races as there are no pit crews. Teams are allowed to change tires between each stage and that was suppose to be all.
Ryan Blaney on the Bristol tires
Blaney was quickest overall in the final practice session on Friday.
“The track’s rough, really rough actually. The track’s kinda coming up. There wasn’t much lane changing. Larson and Reddick could run the top for a little while, then it kinda went away after a handful of minutes,” Ryan Blaney stated after practice.
“Trying to keep tires on it. You know, we’re seeing a lot of tires getting corded, pretty quickly. Especially right rears but even the right front is starting to go. That’s something that’s going to come into play, saving your tires.”
Blaney concluded, “We got windshields in these things. You can’t make it super tacky, to where there’s mud flying everywhere.”
Denny Hamlin isn’t looking for more tires
Tires are suppose to wear. It creates passing when drivers take care of the tires better than others. Hamlin sees this as an opportunity…
“Selfishly, I just like saving my stuff. So, I would say, leave it as is. But, I doubt that will happen,” Hamlin stated after his practice runs.
“It comes in pretty quick. After 2-3 laps, you notice that you don’t have the grip on corner exit, that you did on the first lap. It progressively gets a little worse.”
“For us, it really kinda plateaued. Where we really didn’t fall off a cliff. It just got to a certain lap time and kinda stayed there.”
“You’re going to have to be technical with making sure you hit your marks. But, I didn’t see where someone just lost control because they were on a bald tire. It’s the same for everyone, you just gotta do the best you can.”
Hamlin concluded, “I’m really not educated enough to know what to do [on the track]. In talking to Christopher Bell, their hands are tied. If weather comes in, you can’t dig up the race track because all the moisture would just seep in. You’d have ruts and just a mess. So, they have to keep it sealed and let the rain fall off of it. At that point, you can till it and water it.”
Alex Bowman on Bristol Dirt
Bowman was fastest in the opening round of practice.
“I had a blast. I thought it was a lot of fun,” Bowman stated.
He added, The tire wear is a little concerning. But, other than that, everything went great. These cars are a lot of fun. They’re really drivable on dirt. It got a little rough, but it’s just character in the race track. I enjoyed the hell out of it.”
Chase Briscoe says track prep could help some
“It’s certainly a concern. It’s hard for any of us to expect what would happen, as far as the tire wear stuff. At Eldora, it doesn’t appear there was ever this bad of an issue,” Briscoe commented
“Red clay is just always more abrasive, for whatever reason. I think we probably need to do something. Our car, after 20 laps, we’re already showing cords.”
“They’re in a tough box because there’s no pit crews here. So, if you did have something happen under green, it’s just a tough situation.”
“Personally, I would like to see something halfway through that final stage. I don’t think that would change the complexion of the race. But, it would be better for the teams.”
“You’ve seen it in sprint car racing, where guys are running on a rubbered down race track. Lap after lap, guys are blowing tires, cautions keep coming out. We don’t want to see that here.”
“At Eldora, we ran over 100 laps on a set of tires. I didn’t think tires would even be a thought. The track [at Bristol} didn’t rubber up, it was black slick the whole time. Red clay, it’s really gritty, it tears tires up, for whatever reason.”
“If the track had a little more moisture in it, who knows if the tires would do that. It’s a tough box for everyone involved because nobody knows what to expect.”
“You can’t have a ton of moisture in it because of the windshields. They can’t till it up, because they know the rain’s coming. I’m confident it’s still going to be a really good race on Sunday, regardless.”
“If they would just go out there and till the top of the race track and water it. We would be running up there instead of on the bottom. It all comes down to track prep. That’s the key ingredient when it comes to dirt racing. You can really control what lane is faster.”
Briscoe concluded, “Hopefully, they can do something track prep wise. Obviously, the more moisture it has, the better the tires will last as well. They’re in a tough box with the rain coming, you have to keep it sealed.”
Crew chief Rudy Fugal says more tires are a must
William Byron has little experience on dirt surfaces. A couple weeks ago, Fugal and Byron went to a local track in an open practice night to turn some laps.
“The loads, black slick and wearing the tires out is totally different [than Eldora]. You can go a whole race at Eldora without seeing much tire wear. This is all kinda new,” Rudy Fugal stated.
“If we don’t get anymore tires, it’s going to be really hard. You’re going to have to choose to ride. Maybe just try to stay on the lead lap and not have a flat.”
“I expect that they’re going to hopefully add another caution and another set of tires. That will at least let you survive a little bit. But, you’ll still be saving some tire.”
Fugal concluded, “We need the [extra] tires. Obviously, without pit crews, we need the [extra] caution to break it up and make it even. But, I think 100 laps is stretching it right now, unfortunately. It could get better. But, it could be the same, or worse too.”