A tire that wears could create strategy dilemmas for Sprint Cup crew chiefs in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, beginning with today’s practice session.
Teams will run the same tire used for last weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race. Kyle Busch noted that the speed in the tire “really falls off about Lap 15 or so.’’
That will create a challenge for crew chiefs in the season’s longest race.
Dave Rogers, crew chief for Carl Edwards, said Sunday’s race strategy could be impacted by decisions made in practice. Teams are allowed five sets for practice and qualifying and 12 for the race. Rogers notes that teams can transfer a practice set to the race, giving them 13 new sets for the race.
Cup teams have one practice today before qualifying and two practice sessions Saturday.
“I didn’t think we had the best setup under the car (at the All-Star Race), so I have to make a decision going into the weekend am I going to take that fifth set of tires and work on my car and try to get better, or am I going to limit practice time and take that fifth set and transfer it to the race?’’ Rogers said.
Rogers notes that with a harder tire that doesn’t wear, a crew chief is focused on track position. With a tire that wears, a crew chief has many more options because of the ability to move through the field.
Former champion crew chief Ray Evernham, who won three Coca-Cola 600s with Jeff Gordon in the 1990s, says Goodyear’s new tire for Charlotte Motor Speedway will add a layer of intrigue with the race.
“We’re going to see some different types of pit strategy,’’ said Evernham, an analyst for NBC Sports. “I think we’re going to see cars moving through the field. I think it’s given the crew chiefs some options on what they’re going to do on their pit stops. I think it’s going to add a twist we haven’t seen in a while at Charlotte with more options on tires.’’
When is the right time to change only two tires instead of four?
“It’s really going to depend on where your car is at, how soon you want to get that track position and whether or not you think the caution is going to come out if there are a lot of wrecks and spins and mechanical problems,’’ Evernham said. “Even though the cars have gotten bulletproof it does seem we have a higher number of mechanical issues in the 600 than in other races. I think all those things will come into play and it’ll depend on your car and crew chief.’’