The decision for an All-Star Race option tire did not happen overnight.
Late last summer, Goodyear tire representatives met with NASCAR’s competition department to review the season. This is nothing new. The partners perennially discuss highlights, what can be improved on for the next season and what tracks the tours might test to devise a game plan for the following year.
When the idea was proposed
As the meeting was wrapping up, NASCAR suggested the possibility of an option — or softer tire — for 2017 and what might be involved to make it a reality.
“We said, ‘Well, we’ll go ahead and talk about that amongst ourselves and get back to you with some of the guidelines we would need in order to make something like that work,’” recounted Stu Grant, Goodyear’s General Manager of Worldwide Racing. “Would it be harder? Is it softer? Is there a number of laps it would have to last, because there are limits. You have to put constraints on an idea like that with an option tire. ‘What are the objectives? What are we trying to accomplish?’
“So we back to NASCAR with some of those questions, right? ‘You, NASCAR, need to answer these and figure out where are you going with all of this whole idea?’ We did that in late 2016.”
Grant went back to Akron. Although he’d return to the track on the weekends, that meeting was the last time the option tire was discussed until a few months ago.
“Then it was, ‘Hey, do you think you could pull it off for the All Star event?’ Then it was, ‘What’s the format for the All Star race?’ We needed to figure out what we needed from a tire standpoint. ‘Do you get one set, two set? You guys need to define the rules for the All-Star race and then we can make it happened.”
Initially, Goodyear and NASCAR decided to give teams seven sets of prime tires and two sets of option tires (with green Goodyear lettering to distinguish the tires). Earlier this week, NASCAR announced that teams would have an additional set of Prime tires for Saturday’s four stage, 70-lap All-Star event.
All drivers were allowed to practice with the option tires on Friday. The tires were constructed with a tractive tread to offer more grip for short runs. The teams must use all four green tires when using the Option during the race. If the team chooses to use the Option tires for the final stage of the All-Star Race, the driver must start from the rear of the field.
When Kevin Harvick put the green tires on the No. 4 Ford during practice, he jumped to the top of the speed chart with a lap of 189.095mph. After four laps on the tires his speed dropped to 183.511mph. He was second overall at the end of the session.
“From what I’ve seen so far today, I think NASCAR should be really pleased with what happened this afternoon, because we ended up delivering, I think, exactly what they wanted, which was a faster tire that gave up more,” Grant said.
“It was three-tenths (of a second) faster than the prime over a 10-lap run, and it gave up three-tenths more. I think you’re going to have the comers and goers and strategy—and we’ll see what happens.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t expect the complexion of the race to look much different with the option tires.
“They run this thing in the middle of the evening when this track has a ton of grip,” Earnhardt said. “The temperature of the track surface is going to be down. I don’t think the softer tire is going to make that much of a difference. I think the guys that start up front with the harder tires are still going to be hard to pass.
“The track has so much speed at the end of the race there. If I got hard tires and I’m starting on the front row, I feel as confident as anyone else in that little dash for the win. That soft tire will be good for three or four laps before it starts evening out. It will be interesting.”
Teams that transfer to the main event from the Open will receive two additional sets of Prime tires and one set of Option tires.