It was announced recently that NASCAR may be willing to give a softer tire a run in 2018 following a trial during the upcoming All-Star races at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. For a Motorsport that has only ever had one tire manufacturer at a time for the last 20 years, this option could really inspire a lot of change.
The All-Star race is a 70-lap, four segment race, and drivers this year will have the option to stick with their regular tires, or change into the new softer compound tire. Whilst different tires are an option in most other Motorsports, for NASCAR, this is a very exciting development within the tire strategy realm.
The new tire could quicken laps by up to four-tenths of a second, however, it is much more susceptible to wear and at a much faster rate than the standard tires. With the All-Star race being broken up into three segments of 20 laps and one segment of 10 laps, it could be a risk to put on the softer tires at the beginning of a new segment. With variables such as track temperatures, track surface etc, there’s no way of knowing whether the tires would last an entire segment.
Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of race tire sales, had this to say:
“They can’t afford to put it on at the beginning of a 20-lap segment and then have to change. It’s going to be really hard to say how much falloff there will be… [But] Our intent was for it to be able to survive a 20-lap run.’’
Not only that, but if the teams decide to switch to the softer tires for the final 10 lap segment, then they will be sent to the rear of the field. So, whilst the tires could be beneficial for the shootout, it would come at a price for drivers.
For fans, teams and drivers, this is yet another thing to potentially look forward to. We have seen a lot of experimentation happening in NASCAR lately, such as the new Stage Racing, and the “five-minute crash clock” for repairing vehicles on Pit Road.
Speaking about the potential for a new tyre, Kurt Busch seemed keen on the idea:
“This is the perfect time to try a softer tire. This could be a direction for the future of the sport. I like it. Let’s see how it goes.’’
Kyle Larson also showed some enthusiasm towards this:
“If this whole thing goes good, maybe we can see it in other races down the road or all races. You go to most of your local short tracks … dirt tracks you have two or three different compounds you can chose from, different staggers to make your car work better. Adding that little bit of tire game and strategy is exciting for the race teams.’’
So, keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming All-Star races on May 20th – because if all goes well – they may just lead the way to a whole new style of racing and tire strategy for 2018.