Tyres a concern at Martinsville

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have voiced concern about tyres wearing too fast following practice and qualifying for Sunday's race at Martinsville

Tyres a concern at Martinsville

It is the second time in three weeks that Cup teams have been faced with tyre issues after Goodyear and NASCAR had to switch tyre specifications following the first practice session at Bristol due to excessive wear on right-side tyres.

As was the case at Bristol, Goodyear has brought a new tyre specification relative to the past at Martinsville, which is also a half-mile track but with the lowest cornering speeds of the season among all ovals.

A softer compound on the right sides and a harder one on the left compared to what was last run last autumn at the same venue, seem to be wearing much faster than anticipated. The track has not rubbered in as normal, big tyre marbles being left on the outside of the racing line at both ends of the track.

A fuel run on a new set of tyres should last for more than 110 laps, but many teams were unable to get to even 40 laps before their tyres faded.

"We were wearing the tyres really, really badly. Goodyear brought a little bit softer tyre, with great intentions and we all want that, we all want more grip," said seven-time Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon. "But we were really struggling a lot with some really bad loose conditions getting into the corners and off the corners.

"I was just glad that we weren't alone in that because it was definitely making me nervous with how bad loose the car was getting and that's something that's not typical for us here. So we were really challenged with that quite a bit and felt like we made gains on it throughout the day.

"Right now we're trying to anticipate what the tyres are going to do, what the rubber is going to do. Is it going to lay down? Is that wear going to get better? You certainly think that it should, but you never know these days."

Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports team-mate Dale Earnhardt Jr described the situation as "messy".

"After 12 laps, everybody was kind of falling off pretty fast," said Earnhardt. "There was no rubber built up and there was a lot of marbles. You couldn't get out of the bottom groove. You had to run right next to the kerb. If you got in the marbles, it would ruin you. Once you got in the marbles, you ruined that set.

"There is no way to get them off. We don't go fast enough here to really grind them off. It was messy. It was just real messy all day."

Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin said expects the grip levels to improve for the race, reducing the issue relative to practice.

"I know after 35 laps yesterday we pretty much wore out a set of tyres so it's going to be a big question mark on how it's going to all play out," said Hamlin, winner of the last three races at Martinsville.

"I think that's going to be better, it typically always is from practice to the race here at this track - tyre wear gets a little bit better. And with it getting warmer, the track should rubber up. Everything that you fought yesterday should be 50 per cent better tomorrow."

Wear levels for drivers seemed to vary, with polesitter Jamie McMurray able to get the best consistency out of his Goodyears during Friday's practice sessions, reporting his tyres looked in reasonably good shape after 60 laps.

However following Saturday's Truck Series race, Kyle Busch, who finished second in the 250-lap event, said he does not expect wear and grip to improve on Sunday. Many drivers complained of being unable to run on the outside line which was filled with rubber marbles.

"For as bad as they feel, there's still some rubber on the tyres," said Busch. "There's no grip in the tyre. I don't know how many different coatings of rubber they lay on the tyre so when you get down towards the end it's like a harder rubber so you don't get to cords - I don't know.

"We haven't seen very many cords this weekend. We did a little bit on the first run today because we were all so far off. We seemed to make adjustments and get a lot better and we didn't see any more. That doesn't mean we're not going to see it again tomorrow."

NASCAR officials may decide to put out a caution early in the race to check on wear rates, but those getting the tyres to last the most should be in with a good chance at the end of the 500 scheduled laps for Sunday's race.

Q & A: Busch on Raikkonen deal

Previous article

Q & A: Busch on Raikkonen deal

Next article

Harvick denies Earnhardt victory

Harvick denies Earnhardt victory
Load comments
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Plus

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup Series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Plus

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Plus

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organisation - which underlines his enduring value

Aug 31, 2021
The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin Plus

The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin

A multiple F3000 race winner, Marc Goossens was on the precipice of making Formula 1 in the 1990s - but a lack of budget left him without a path to the promised land. Turning to an illustrious racing career in sportscars, Goossens left the endurance circuit to try his hand at racing stock cars - and now calls the NASCAR Euro Series home

Jul 1, 2021
Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR Plus

Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR

There has never been a full-time British driver in the NASCAR Cup. But Alex Sedgwick, who is rising through the stock car ranks, wants that to change and could be a trailblazer for European talents to reach the top echelons of the NASCAR ladder

Feb 28, 2021
How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport Plus

How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport

It's 20 years since legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr died at the Daytona 500, but the legacy of his crash continues today through the pioneering safety work done by NASCAR

Feb 18, 2021
The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021 Plus

The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season

Feb 12, 2021
How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career Plus

How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a shot at redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith

Feb 11, 2021