The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers got their first look at Goodyear’s Option tire for the Monster Energy All-Star Race Saturday night in Friday’s opening practice session.
Each team received one set to practice with and Stu Grant, Goodyear’s Director of Global Racing analyzed the results following the session.
“We delivered a faster tire that’s going to give up more,” Grant said following the practice session. “Based on our numbers and what we saw, and everything is limited when you have one set, but it was three-tenths faster than the Prime but gave up three-tenths more, so you’re going to have the comers and goers.”
There are two variables that will change between Friday afternoon’s practice session and the All-Star Race (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET on FS1): the temperatures will be much cooler as the event takes place closer to sunset and teams now have the opportunity to analyze their setup with the Option tire on.
“The other thing you have to figure out is that it’s probably going to be a bigger differential at night,” Grant said. “If they had another set to tune their car to and another Option tire to use, it’d be a little better too.”
With only one set of Option tires available for the All-Star Race, several strategies will be available for drivers to attempt with when they use their set.
With three 20-lap stages that will lead to a 10-driver, 10-lap shootout based on stage winners and average finishes, it could be a gamble for a driver to use their Option early to make it into the final stage.
The question then becomes, what happens if you put on a set of Option tires for the final 10-lap shootout and a caution comes out.
“I think the performance in that situation would be similar to the Prime,” Grant said. “You’re going to see similar fall off and restart to the prime. Initially, you’re going to be faster for the first four to five laps and then it starts to cross over.”
While the belief is that the conditions in the night will give a stronger advantage to the Option tire, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has his skepticism.
“It’s probably not the best scenario because this track is pretty fast at night with a lot of grip,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “The surface, they did such a great job paving it that it hasn’t really aged that well. It still has a ton of grip, so I think the hard tire is still going to be competitive compared to the soft tire late at night. If we went out there during the day, there would be a big difference between the two. But as it gets later at night, the difference narrows up quite a bit.”