MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers and teams are prepared to expect the unexpected in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway (12:30 p.m. ET, FS1).
Not only has Goodyear brought a new right-side tire compound, but race stages will be put to the test at a short track for the first time this season.
“Interesting” was the most popular word walking through the garage.
Check out all the buzz as FOXSports.com caught up with a few crew chiefs Sunday morning at the 0.53-mile Virginia track.
Gordon, crew chief for Joey Logano and the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, brought up some interesting points about tires and fuel strategy that can’t be overlooked in the race.
“It’ll be interesting,” Gordon said. “It’s kind of funny because the right-side tires lay some rubber down, but once it lays rubber down, we don’t see a lot of tire wear. We saw that in the Truck race yesterday (Saturday). The tires hung in pretty well.
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens and how the calls happen – if cautions fall in the stages and at what time guys will come (to pit road) and what times they won’t,” he added. “I think you’ll see some movement there. I think the stages will be cool. You can go a stage without stopping, but I think if a caution comes, I think everyone is going to come and take advantage of it.”
, LAT Images www.latphoto.co.ukJohn K Harrelson
Gibson, crew chief for Kurt Busch, was rather blunt when talking about what he expects out of the tires.
“We have no idea,” Gibson said bluntly. “One driver says it’s better in the rubber, and one driver says you have to stay away from it. We won’t know until halfway through the race.” The groove is going to move around and there’s going to be more rubber laid down. I don’t really know what to expect to be honest with you.”
Gibson also noted he’s more concerned about how the stages are going to play out when it comes to pit-road strategy.
“I’m more worried about the segments of the race and who’s going to stop for tires, and who’s not going to stop,” he added. “This place eats tires up. That makes me more nervous than the rubber. The rubber is what it is. Drivers just have to work around it.”
, LAT Images www.latimages.co.ukNigel Kinrade
Kasey Kahne’s crew chief is not only keeping his eye on the tires and how the stages will play out, but cooler temperatures, as well.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Rodden said. “It’s going to be a little bit cooler than we thought. We started putting rubber down in Happy Hour, but I’m kind of worried we’re not. I’m also worried about those stages. When they end and we run caution laps, we’re going to pick it all up and then put it down again. So,you’re not going to get a true read until the last stage.”
Lambert, crew chief for Ryan Newman and the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team, says teams won’t know really what they’re deal with until later in the race.
“Nobody really knows until we get out there and run a number of laps,” Lambert told FOXSports.com. “Most laps anyone really ran in practice was maybe 40 or so on a set of tires. We can go a lot longer than that on fuel, so for us, we’re going to learn a lot in the race today.
“Initial impression, it looks like the tires are putting rubber down and not wearing nearly as bad as some of the tires we’ve had here in the past,” he added. “So, that will add a different element to the race potentially. We really won’t know until we see the fall off late in the run – past 50 laps. That’s the unknown that we have right now.”
Aric Almirola’s crew chief feels Sunday’s race will be a blast from the past.
“I expect it to be what it was four or five years ago when the rubber would get laid down,” Blickensderfer said. “Your car would get tighter for about 300 laps. The last third of the race, it will probably free back up – it usually does that here.”
“From watching the Truck race, they laid lots of rubber on the green flag, then once the caution comes out, the rubber gets picked up,” he added. “I think you’re going to get tighter and tighter in the middle as that rubber lays throughout the run.”