Drivers shocked but happy with Bristol Tire management

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NASCAR Cup Series drivers were tasked with an unexpected challenge at Bristol Motor Speedway, and most received positive reactions.

Sunday’s Food City 500 was a tire management race. Running at high speed around a half-mile concrete oval causes excessive wear on the tires, with some teams experiencing tire blowouts or wire breaks.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Josh Berry said. “I think we got our wish with the tire falling off, but I don’t know. They fall, but it looks like they fall a little bit and then all at once when they go to the ropes. I don’t know what changes you need there. Obviously, more rubber is needed on them because we were running on fabric at the end.

“I think I finished with three flat tires, and the car caught fire on the 11th tire. However, I had a lot of fun. I will not lie. That might be the biggest (expletive) show I’ve ever been a part of, but it was a lot of fun.”

There was a track record of 54 lead changes. At times, the field would pack together and follow each other for several laps, as if in a superspeedway race.

“It was an interesting day,” Brad Keselowski said. “There was a lot of discipline required, and honestly it was a fun race because you had to be very smart to drive. It will cut you down in a heartbeat, and you have to have a good setup. I think we had a good setup and I tried to race as best I could.”

During long green-flag races, when tire protection came into play, drivers slowed the race pace to as much as 18 seconds of lap time. But Keselowski said appearances can be deceiving.

“This is no parade lap,” he said. “You’re still pulling mail. It’s different, but you’re just managing.”

Goodyear felt there was excessive tire wear and would investigate the data. However, NASCAR’s Jon Probst thought it was one of the best short-track races ever seen, and his initial reaction was not to make any changes for the fall race other than giving the teams more tires.

Chase Briscoe said, “I think that was definitely the weirdest race I’ve ever been a part of in the Cup Series.” “We usually run every lap as a qualifying lap and you can make a little saving, but you would never go that slow to save tyres. It was definitely bizarre how it all happened, and the green flag pit stops, and it was like when you were on new tires you had 1000 more horsepower than the field.

“it was crazy. It was unfortunate circumstances from a racing standpoint, but for us to finish 13th, as crazy of a race as it was, we were certainly much better than 13th.

Justin Haley said he loved Sunday’s race.

“I don’t know what social media says, but as a driver, I thought it was fun because you had to manage it,” Haley said. “You weren’t all-out the whole time, so it was fun to play a major role in how the car went.”

Some drivers described Sunday as the equivalent of short-track racing at the grassroots level. It is not uncommon to be limited to tires on a Saturday night or to have to manage tires at local short tracks.

“I’ve been joking with people that it’s a big-sized Pensacola with a tire tire,” John Hunter Nemechek said. “I grew up in short track late model racing – places where you had to manage tire wear until the end of the race. We were able to do that.”

“The drivers were asking for more tire wear and we got it,” Keselowski said. If we were like a two on a scale of 10, it would be a nine or a 10. Maybe there is a middle ground somewhere. It was definitely a different race.

“I had a lot of fun. I felt like you have to be really smart. It’s nice to do something different every now and then.”

Todd Gilliland said, “For the middle part of the race, it gave me huge flashbacks to the Myrtle Beach race that day (where) you see guys running three-wide and just going up (the track), and then You’re kind of stuck and have nowhere to go. But a place like this is different because you kind of get tired and slowly lose your place. But this, you’ll literally fall off a cliff. These It was difficult.”

However, Kyle Larson was upfront in his opinion about the experience.

“If I knew I was only doing it once, I would say it was fun,” Larson said. “Managing, anticipating how difficult the runs would be, anticipating how each run would play out was strange. You were constantly in traffic and maintaining distance from people in front and behind. So, the strategy side of being in the driver’s seat was fun, but I would never want to do that again.

“It wouldn’t be good to run races like this every week, and honestly it’s probably a black eye for Goodyear, just with rubber that couldn’t be laid down and was just rubbed between the tires and all that. It was different and somehow we took full advantage of it and somehow reached fifth place.

Some other notes from Sunday’s race:

This did not include the new short-track package teams running at Phoenix Raceway last weekend. This was the same package that was run at Bristol the previous year, the race package NASCAR uses at every track (except where the short-track/road course rules package is run).

The tire on the left was the same one that was run at Bristol since the fall of 2022 and the tire on the right was the one that was run at Bristol in the fall of 2023.

Resin was sprayed into the bottom lane of each corner at Bristol.

The maximum temperature in Bristol on Sunday was 62 degrees.

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