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NASCAR's exciting race at Bristol sparks debate on tires

Good morning! Much like all motorsports, today’s newsletter is all about tires! Rightfully so, after the phenomenal show we saw at Bristol this past weekend. Now we ask ourselves… Can it be replicated? 🤔

Parker’s POV

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

Written by: Parker Kligerman

My Dad is not a sports fan, nor a motorsport fan. For example, when I was getting ready to attempt to qualify for my second Daytona 500 in the duels, he asked, “Is the race televised?”

He’s a great dad, and I love him dearly, but sports are not his thing. He’s more of an academic. I bring this up because I’ll never forget back when I was racing Xfinity full-time in 2013; he once turned to me and remarked about the broadcast.

“All they talk about is tires! Tires this, tires that, it’s all just tires,” and he’s not wrong. Because he is such an outsider, he made me realize something that I had tuned out. All we talk about is tires! Putting the marketing tagline aside, it’s literally where the rubber meets the road. A car or Racecar is almost nothing without tires, sure you could run metal wheels, it just won’t work very well. And in terms of a racing show, they are almost everything.

In F1 about a decade ago, after they went to the single tire supplier of Pirelli and banned refueling, some British men in white button downs called up some Italian men in white button downs and said, “Well, you know, Luigi, how we can spice up the show? Tires! We will have different compounds that have to be used and maybe make them so soft that cars will have to pit many, many times!” It worked… sort of.

That is until there were races where they had to stop five times or drive super slow to save the tires, and it all became a bit excessive. Much like any good thing, moderation is key. This applies similarly to racing series and tire design.

Too little wear, and you get a conveyor belt of cars all turning qualifying laps at the mercy of the goddess of aerodynamics. Too much wear, and you get the USGP 2005 or the Brickyard 400 2008. It’s always going to be a moving target because, unlike other sports, motorsports is incredibly dynamic.

Everything is changing all the time. Cars, tracks, weather, surfaces, technology, etc., etc. It all changes so often and so vastly we can’t even replicate a type of racing from the past if we tried. Don’t believe me?

How many hundreds of millions, if not billions, have been spent on trying to create racing that is not “Aero affected”? It’s enough to make a rational person think we should probably abandon this whole racing thing and go play chess. But we won’t…

Why? Because when it all comes together and the blend of technology, driver skill, and tires provide an unbelievable show for a couple of hours on a Sunday, it all feels worth it.

Like this past Sunday at Bristol when we were graced with some of the most extreme tire wear we’ve ever seen in the NASCAR Cup Series. Producing a record number of lead changes and almost unanimous approval from the drivers. What a moment! 

There's only one problem though. How often we don’t get this right, not just in NASCAR, but F1 and other motorsports as well. Very seldom does it all come together like this past weekend.

And this gives you an idea how damn hard a puzzle this is to solve. It’s Wednesday, at the time of publishing this, and no one is really sure why the tires wore heavily this past weekend. There are theories, but no scientific answers—I’m not sure there will be. Unless we come back to Bristol in the fall and have a tire that lasts 100+ laps if you treat it right, and only 70 or less if you don’t. No matter the weather, then we haven’t solved this.

It’s a bit like government spending for politicians—everyone talks about it, everyone theorizes, but no one's really sure where the hell it all goes.

When we get to the next short track oval race, we will undoubtedly be talking about tires. And because of this, we will get all excited and giggly when the sport gets it right.

We'll be angry when they don't, and maybe that's the secret sauce. Just maybe its a from of natural moderation. Making sure we don’t get drunk on the perfect level of tire wear.

Thankfully, my Dad doesn’t have to wonder; it will be televised, and we will be talking tires.

📈 Trending 📈

NASCAR & Goodyear Contemplate Bristol Mystery

At Bristol's latest Cup race, NASCAR and Goodyear were left puzzled by unexpected tire wear issues, despite using the same tire combo as last year. The race saw drivers needing new tires way sooner than anticipated, with no more than 50 laps before risks of cording appeared. "It's still a bit of an unknown," said Goodyear's Greg Stucker, highlighting the same conditions but drastically different outcomes.

To combat the problem, teams were given an extra set of tires, affecting race pace and strategies. Surprisingly, the track showed no signs of rubbering in, even in resin-covered areas. The issue led to a record 54 lead changes among 16 drivers but also contributed to numerous cautions.

While Goodyear hints at future tire tests, NASCAR's John Probst sees little need for change, calling it one of the "best short-track races" he's witnessed. "Maybe just give them more tires," he suggests, appreciating the dramatic finish despite the challenges.

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