NASCAR, Goodyear continue to work on short track racing fix

The league still believes an extreme fall off tire is the answer moving forward

Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR still believes what happened last month at Bristol Motor Speedway is the direction the short track racing product needs to evolve towards and it’s what the league continues to work towards after another pair of moribund races at Richmond and Martinsville the past two weeks.

Speaking on his weekly segment on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday, league senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer says work continues with Goodyear to reproduce on a scale the kind of grip falloff experienced at Bristol.

NASCAR believes that’s how the short track racing product should look across the board with the third year NextGen car and less of what the past two weeks have featured, drivers all running the same speed and only passing due to pit strategy over long green flag runs without cautions.

“We are not naive to this,” Sawyer said. “We as NASCAR want our short track package to be better. We want that racing to be at the level that superspeedways and our intermediate racetracks are today.

“I promise you we are working as hard as we can with Goodyear and we need to work harder. That’s the bottom line. We need to work harder to come to a place, where as I said a couple of weeks ago, we need to figure out how to bottle up what we learned at Bristol and also what we learned the first 30 laps at Richmond last week on how that race unfolded.”

That is a reference to the first every points paying race laps contested on a wet track using the wet weather tire, which opened up multiple passing lanes and a variety of driving approaches.

“When you can go out on any track, especially short tracks, and you can run it at 10/10ths and the equipment will take it and the tire will take, then you’re taking all the skill set out away from the driver,” Sawyer said. “I promise you (and) I promise our fans that we are working daily to continue to try to come up with a tire that will give us the short track racing that we’re all looking for.”

Various drivers so far tell Sportsnaut that Goodyear hasn’t communicated with them over the past three weeks so the industry is just in a holding pattern. NASCAR is not entertaining a horsepower increase or any other aerodynamic changes.

Denny Hamlin, on his Actions Detrimental podcast, said NASCAR should incur the cost for testing Goodyear experiments and offered a suggestion for how to do it.

“NASCAR has their own Next-Gen car,” he said. “It’s the one that they originally started with. You need to get NASCAR and their team. This should not fall on the teams to pay for fixing this. Get NASCAR’s cars, get Dale Jr and get them to go to Richmond, get them to go to Martinsville and test tires. He gets to pick up the tire that we run.”

Historically, when Goodyear and NASCAR conduct a tire test, the teams incur the travel costs but this idea circumvents it.

“It would be great publicity, this is Dale Jr’s tire, let’s see how it does,” Hamlin said. “I think he would sign up in two seconds to go out there, cause he’s angry about the tires as much as I am. He brings it up just as much as I do but we clearly are missing the mark.”

At one point during the race on Sunday, Joey Logano took just right side tires and maintained the lead on old left side tires for almost half the race.

Not that it was a good thing, even to him, in the big picture.

“That’s not okay, that’s just not okay,” he said. “The end of the race, late caution, back in the day of course we’re all coming in to take tires. This time, I’m in eighth place, and there’s only 13 cars on the lead lap, I’m warming up my tires, saying we don’t need to pit.

“It’s not going to do anything for me and it didn’t for Denny who pit and didn’t go anywhere. He went backwards. That’s crazy. We have to do something. My suggestion is we have to get a smaller tire on this car. I know we can’t do it with the wheels on this time so groove the tires. We have to do something. We don’t have much to lose.

“If we can’t produce tire wear, and I don’t understand why, because we used to at Martinsville all the time. It’s clear to me that NASCAR does not want to give us more horsepower. I want that but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. Do something. Hurry up. Now. Try it.”

Hamlin hopes, ultimately, that Goodyear can produce that tire.

“Goodyear is missing the mark and we clearly know that having a tire that falls off, we’ve seen it,” he said. “Bristol gave us the evidence that says this is better. Did it need to go to that extreme? No. But we damn sure shouldn’t have a car leading the race with 180 laps on his left-side tires, That is ridiculous.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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