Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Too Much of a Good Thing at Bristol?

When Jeff Gluck’s Good Race Poll is tickling 90%, you know it had to be a barnburner. This past Sunday (March 17) at Bristol Motor Speedway at first looked like it was doing a bad impression of the 2008 Brickyard 400, but it ended up being must-see TV for the next three hours. Tire management was key, as pit stops were revealing completely corded and worn tires being removed from every car in the field.

While it was exciting to watch, it also felt a bit like watching Russian Roulette with three rounds in the cylinder. What approach should NASCAR take — if anything — to mitigate the short if not arbitrary tire life that everyone saw on Sunday? This week, Chase Folsom and Wyatt Watson tackle the tire controversy in 2-Headed Monster.

Throwback Racing at Thunder Valley Is Just What NASCAR Needs

Well, if it’s entertaining, don’t change it!

I, like some fans last weekend, was expecting to wait over half the race before seeing any kind of competent racing at Bristol.

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Oh boy, was I caught off guard with the show that was put on this weekend in one of the best ways possible. NASCAR has struck oil with this package.

Two simple changes, running the already exciting intermediate package and changing the traction compound from PJ1 to a resin due to Bristol being approved as a wet weather track, provided the most exciting, thrilling Bristol show that I have ever watched.

Fifty-four lead changes, 16 different leaders and tire wear (albeit extreme tire wear) – what more could we ask for? Good old short track racing at Thunder Valley is finally back.

So, why would we change anything with the package now that we have a product that is more than entertaining?

This race brought back the almost lost art of tire conservation that’s seen on the CARS tour and other short track scenes regularly. Being smart and saving your stuff is something I haven’t seen in quite a while, especially to this degree, and Bristol and the drivers delivered once the veterans recognized what it was going to take to win.

Additionally, drivers this weekend after seeing what they did — just like a quarterback goes over film on a Monday — have either echoed or switched to praise for the type of racing that happened on Sunday.

Earnhardt’s post was reposted by Josh Berry, who proved to be of the most vocal guys proclaiming how fun it was to drive on the high banks of Bristol like that.

Even NASCAR is in on this and is hopefully going to figure out how to bring this same product to other short tracks in the future.

“What we need to do is learn from we just experienced this past weekend, be able to bottle that up and be able to carry that to your Martinsville [Speedway], carry that to your Richmond [Raceway],” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Why not try to bring this product to not just Martinsville or Richmond, but also North Wilkesboro Speedway or Dover Motor Speedway? Maybe even bring back Rockingham Speedway and do the same thing there if all is considered? Milk the cow as much as you can.

It took a ton of patience from the fanbase and the drivers, but we finally have what we have been asking and waiting for at least at Bristol, and there’s no reason that NASCAR should even consider changing anything about the package to jeopardize what they have discovered last weekend.

Finally, Thunder Valley is back to being circled on my calendar. – Wyatt Watson

Fun at First, But Longer Term Looks Low-Rent

This past Sunday at Bristol, we saw a race unlike any we had ever seen previously with the Next Gen car, because we actually saw legitimate tire wear for the first time on a short track.

The only problem was, the tire wear was so extreme, the tires were only lasting around 40 to 50 laps before they would fall apart for a good portion of the race. 

This created a very chaotic 500 lap event at Bristol, with drivers on different pace and pit strategies at the end that saw cars on older tires hanging on for dear life, while the cars with new tires blew around them like they were in an arcade game on easy mode. 

While the majority of drivers and fans alike, myself included, really enjoyed this race, the question now is whether or not we want to see it again, and if not, what changes need to be made.

In my opinion, yes there needs to be changes, but there are two parts to this answer that all depend on what tire compound we truly saw this past Sunday.

I believe what we saw was a step in the right direction, but we need the tires to hang on just a little bit longer than they did, somewhere in the 80-100 lap range, while also showing significant wear. 

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We start with the fact that Goodyear claims these are the same tires as the fall, and that the resin caused the issue. 

I don’t think resin was the problem at all, as we use resin at many other tracks, including Nashville Superspeedway, another concrete track, without any issues. However, I do think there is substantial evidence available that these are the same tires that Goodyear brought in the fall. 

Unlike the track did in the past two Bristol Night Races, the track did not take any rubber at all, which can drastically change the wearing effects on a tire, especially on a concrete surface. Concrete has a threshold for when it will take rubber, and we were absolutely below that on Sunday.

In contrast, the much warmer Bristol races in September have seen the track take rubber, and even Nashville in July takes rubber with the use of resin. So, if this is the same tire that we used last fall, there’s reason to believe the track will take rubber like it did last fall, and we will get a race much similar to Bristol in September of 2023, rather than March of 2024. 

If that is the case, I believe we actually need to bring a slightly softer compound to the track come September, to ensure the tire still wears at a significant rate, while not wearing so drastically that we can’t last a 50-lap run under green.

Goodyear has all the time in the world to test tires at Bristol this summer in similar conditions to the night race, and should take advantage of this opportunity. 

Now, should this tire happen to be a different compound from the fall race that we haven’t been told about, then I feel Goodyear needs to go in the opposite direction and bring a slightly harder tire, but we ultimately don’t know the answer until the tires are put to the test, which should presumably happen this summer. 

If this ultimately was a much softer compound that Goodyear has yet to reveal, I don’t believe the rubber being laid down on the racetrack would fully make up the gap that is needed to ensure these tires stay on the race car. 

The racing we saw this past Sunday was incredible, but just needs a few tweaks to perfect the product on the racetrack to something incredible, and the answers all come down to what truly is in those Goodyear tires.

Somewhere in a wild dream, we can come back in the fall with 1000 horsepower. But for now, let’s just make sure we perfect the rubber on the road. – Chase Folsom

About the author

Chase began working with Frontstretch in the spring of 2023 as a news writer, while also helping fill in for other columns as needed. Chase is now the main writer and reporter for Frontstretch.com's CARS Tour coverage, a role which began late in 2023.  Aside from racing, some of Chase's other hobbies include time in the outdoors hunting and fishing, and keeping up with all things Philadelphia sports related.

Wyatt Watson has been an avid fan of NASCAR since 2007 at the age of 8. He joined Frontstretch in February 2023 after serving in the United States Navy for five years as an Electronic Technician Navigation working on submarines. Wyatt writes breaking NASCAR news and contributes to columns such as Friday Faceoff and 2-Headed Monster. Wyatt also contributes to Frontstretch's social media and serves as an at-track reporter.

Wyatt Watson can be found on Twitter @WyattGametime

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4 Comments
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Bill B

Just give them unlimited tires for the event.
It will be just like Darlington. Every time there is a caution,,,, 4 tires.

And one other change is needed. Give them a real practice session. 90 minutes (or more) would allow them to experiment to maybe figure out the best way to extend the tire life. In fact I think that should be the case at all tracks now. Every other major series has real practice sessions.

Last edited 28 days ago by Bill B
sb

Either that, or simply limit the number or tires at every race like the Xfinity series. Same result, much simpler.

Echo

Kyle Larson, I hope I never have to run a race like that in my life.

Ted

Even though I hate Denny Hamlin,.. I enjoyed watching the race and seeing who could take care of their equipment better than others. 🤷🏼‍♂️

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