CONCORD, N.C. — The question for crew chiefs tonight is when to put on the option, softer tires, during the All-Star Race.
Nobody is quite certain.
Among the questions is how beneficial the option tires — marked with green Goodyear lettering — will be. They are intended to be quicker than the regular tire but will wear sooner and likely lose speed deeper into a run.
Each team will have three regular sets and one option set for the four-stage, 70-lap race. If teams save the option tire until the final 10-lap stage, they must start behind all cars on the regular tire.
Another consideration for teams is that format. Only 10 of the 20 cars will advance to the final stage. Those that win any of the first three stages (and are on the lead lap at the end of third stage) advance. The other spots will be based on average finish in the first three stages. That could play into when crew chiefs use the option tires.
“We’re going to see some guys play with it a little bit in the opening stages I would think,’’ said Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Brad Keselowski. “We’re hoping we can get it judged from that to understand if you stay out and get the clean air, can you make it work? I think it will be interesting.’’
Ryan Newman will start 15th in the 20-car field, so strategy may be key. That will be crew chief Luke Lambert’s responsibility.
“There is a certain tradeoff point based on the length of the run,’’ Lambert said of how long the option tires are faster. “The key variable that set of tires helps you with is to go fast early in the run, which is when you can make up all the spots and get the track position and potentially drive out in front of the field. I think that is where the tires are going to prove their benefit.’’
Teams got to practice with one set of the option tires Thursday afternoon.
“I felt like our car did not like the softer tire,’’ said Keith Rodden, crew chief for Kasey Kahne. “We were a little tighter and we were going faster into the corner and it’s like we deflected more and hit the splitter and didn’t turn as good.’’
Kyle Larson, who will start on the pole, says the cooler temperatures at night could help the option tires and make them last longer and be the better choice later in the event.
“I was happy in practice that it did seem to have three to four tenths of speed in it,’’ Larson said. “It definitely felt like it had more grip for a few laps and at night time I think it’s going to be even better. I don’t know, but I think that the option tire will be more impactful when the sun goes down. We’ve just got to wait and see.’’