Race Weekend Central

Bowles-Eye View: Everybody’s Talkin’ ‘Bout Tires

DOVER, Del. – The big story in Dover on Friday?

As Allen Iverson might say (bringing back an old-school reference), “Everybody’s talking ’bout tires.”

With both Jimmie Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya sweeping the front row for Sunday’s race, more than a few drivers cried foul considering both drivers were part of a tire test here Aug. 4 and 5. Greg Biffle was particularly annoyed, struggling to get up to speed initially while some of those “testers” seemed to have no problem at all.

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“The only one that wasn’t scrambling to get going was the No. 48,” he claimed, who paced the field for both practice and qualifying. “They were at the top of the sheet right from the onset, but they were the ones that did the tire test. So naturally, they’re going to get set up for that tire. We’ve been told you’ve got to have a good guy testing tires, but we’ve been told they’re not going to pick Chase guys to test for tires for the last 10 races because it’ll make an impact in practice, qualifying and race trim. And the No. 48 was picked to test and pick the tire.”

In Johnson’s defense, he hadn’t officially qualified for the Chase when the eight-car test happened at Dover, as did Montoya. But Biffle’s was only one take from a handful of drivers with negative opinions, all of which claimed side-by-side racing on Sunday could be difficult. Some of those focused more on Goodyear, with others claiming they pulled an about face on a tire that just didn’t seem to give drivers the grip they wanted.

“I don’t think there’s any benefit,” Denny Hamlin exclaimed, speaking out against tire testing after comparing the current tire to the one at Atlanta where he felt the cars were too loose in and off the turns. “To say it’s a benefit to tire test is completely false, because nine times out of 10 they bring back a tire that nobody even tested on. They’ll take a lot of data from this tire or they’ll piece together this tire and that tire and make [one] that no one has run on and ends up being terrible.”

“I think it’s just crap, really.”

Ouch. So, where do we go from here? A good source told me it’s critical for top drivers to attend each test because it’s crucial in Goodyear figuring out the right compound for what’s already been a difficult car for them to decipher. After all, you wouldn’t bring a knife to a gunfight, would you? Supposedly, at the test Kyle Busch and Johnson were running different types of setups, and that could have played into the No. 48’s early success on Friday, when he ended practice almost a tenth-and-a-half faster than the entire field.

Speaking of Johnson, as you’d expect he didn’t see much of a problem at all.

“Everybody has an opinion and Goodyear contacts us and tells us where they’d like to use us,” said Friday’s polesitter. “That’s how it goes, I mean I didn’t have a chance to test Indy, and there were 75,000 cars that went to Indy and ran laps and miles and we didn’t go. So you just kind of go where they tell you to go and run and test. So we tested here with our perk and there’s no doubt there’s an advantage to it, but we overcame that at Indy, didn’t have a chance to test and went up there and won the show.”

At the moment, it looks like the tables have turned at Dover; but don’t expect the griping to end anytime soon.

About the author

Tom Bowles
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The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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