A new format isn’t the only thing Monster Energy Series drivers and teams will be trying to figure out during Saturday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET, FS1).
They will also be experimenting with Goodyear’s brand new “Option” tire, meaning teams will have two different sets of tires to work with in the 70-lap, four-segment showdown.
Greg Stucker, Goodyear's director of racing, met with a handful of reporters recently to discuss a variety of topics regarding the new Option tire that will hit the track for the first time in Saturday night’s $1 million event:
, LAT Images www.latphoto.co.ukNigel Kinrade
Faster lap times
Although it’s hard to really say for sure until cars hit the track, Goodyear has estimated that the Option tire will be three- to five-tenths of a second faster per lap out of the box compared to the Prime tire.
“It’s right in the ballpark,” said Stucker. “It’s tough to translate the lab testing directly with the amount of grip we’ll see. But we still think it’s in the ballpark based on what we’ve seen in the past and what we’ve seen in the lab. It all seems to line up.”
Stucker also noted the tire’s advantages will likely vary depending on the driver.
It’s going to vary from car-to-car with conditions,” he added. “Some guys will get a little more out of it than others.”
Getty ImagesBrian Lawdermilk
How the compound was created
The new Option tire isn’t something Goodyear started completely from scratch. Tweaks to the set-up and compound were formulated from past experiences with the Prime tire, Stucker explained.
“The construction itself is the same between the Prime and the Option,” he said. “We made formulation changes to both the left side and right side. The left side is actually a known compound. It’s what we’ve raced at Fontana, Indy (up until this year) and Darlington. It’s a known quantity. We haven’t raced it at Charlotte, but we kind of know how it behaves. The right side is formulation change based on testing we’ve done historically.”
Goodyear then tested those new formulations and relayed that information to teams to give them a good basis for what to possibly expect.
“The formulations or similar have been tested at other places, so we kind of know what to expect with those adjustments,” he added. “The testing of the tire itself was done in the lab. Before every race, we do predictive testing for every combination that we run, and then we share that information with the teams.”
Overall, it was all about giving drivers a little more grip.
“It’s a known adjustment from the formulation itself to try to put a little more grip in that tire,” Stucker said. “Just getting a little grip out of both right side and left side. It’s a combination we haven’t raced, but it’s something we know about.”
The Prime tire is also the compound drivers will run in the Coca-Cola 600 on May 28 (5:30 p.m. ET, FOX).
Goodyear didn’t know the format before discussions
When discussions about a second tire set-up first surfaced last fall, NASCAR had yet to decide the official format for the all-star race.
“That’s one of the things we talked about,” Stucker said. “We talked about how the format has to be this or that, and how it can’t be this or that.”
Talks about the tire cooled after a while before Goodyear and the sanctioning body made the final decision to implement it.
“With the overall formats changing with stages and a few other things that were in the mix, the Option tire for the All-Star was put on the backburner,” Stucker added. “But then it was resurrected again this spring, so we had a good jump on it. We didn’t have to react very quickly. We could pull the strings on what we already had done. That’s how we came up with what we got.”
NASCAR via Getty ImagesSarah Glenn
Can teams screw it up?
When you give drivers and teams something new to experiment with, they are bound to push the limits.
Stucker is aware some teams could cross the line when it comes to getting maximum performance out of the Option tire.
“I think that’s what they get paid to do, right?” said Stucker. “So, sure. I think you’ll see somebody to that. That’s racing. That’s what everybody wants to do – be the best at pushing the envelope.”
Fortunately, teams will be given one Option tire set for practice.
“I think the most important thing is for them to know what they got going in,” Stucker said. “That’s why everybody has a set to practice on, so they understand what they can and can’t do with it -- how much grip they’re going to get and how to deal with it.”
Option tire stipulations
Unlike other races throughout the season, teams will be able to put a fresh set of tires on their cars for the main event after All-Star Race qualifying. They'll even be permitted to start the race on the Option tire, if they choose.
If teams decide to use the Option tire prior to the final stage, those teams are required to restart the race behind those teams that are not on the Option tire for the 10-lap sprint to the finish.
Teams are also not required to race the Option tire if they choose not to, but Stucker says that wouldn’t be a wise decision.
“You have to remember they only have three sets of tires for four segments of racing,” he said. “So, they are going to go on at some point. I think if a crew chief made the decision to not put them on, they’ll probably have an unhappy driver at some point.”
How long will it last?
Because the Option tire features a “softer” compound than the Prime set-up, the Option should experience more fall-off compared to the “harder” tire.
Stucker says that was one of the goals when Goodyear first set out to develop the second option.
“It’s softer and it’s formulated to be that way, so hence it’s going to run hotter,” Stucker said. “That is one of the factors is it tends to create tire fall-off as it gets hot. Then they lose grip and give up. That will all be a factor. It’s tough to say exactly how much, but it will certainly be more so than the prime. That’s what the goal is.”
How long the Option tire is expected to last also depends on who’s at the wheel.
“Guys can probably make it last a full fuel run,” he added. “Not everybody, but guys could make it happen.”
What’s the overall goal?
As far as an overall goal for the all-star event, Stucker said Goodyear and NASCAR are hoping the tire adds a whole new strategical element to the non-points race.
“I think what everybody wants to see is to open the door for some different strategies,” Stucker said. “I think with two different tire options, that’s what you’re going to have. I think with some guys, if you see them struggle in the first segment of the All-Star, you might see them put it on in the second or the third in order to advance to that final segment. Other guys who do well and have their high average, they’ll probably save it for that final 10-lap segment.
“That’s the goal – to create an opportunity for guys to take different strategies so not everybody is doing the same thing,” he added. “Give it a little bit of flare and a little personality so people can do different things.”
Getty ImagesStreeter Lecka
Looking toward the future
Although Stucker indicated there are no plans to implement the tire at other racetracks this season, he did discuss the possibility of permanently having multiple options, as seen in other series like F1.
“It’s a discussion we’d have to get with NASCAR and work through,” Stucker said. “I think the biggest thing to realize that any series that runs primes and options now, it’s on road courses. Nobody does it on their oval applications. It’s just a different.
“You have to sit down and determine what your objectives are and say what we want to accomplish,” Stucker added. “That’s the No. 1 goal – trying to figure out what we want to accomplish with an option tire.”
Despite no plans to date for the Option tire outside of Saturday night’s race, the all-star event is a perfect testing ground for the new set-up.
“The All-Star is kind of made for it,” he said. “It’s a perfect example to utilize something like that, so you really have to figure out how you want to use it if you take it beyond that.”