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NASCAR takeaways: Denny Hamlin wins Bristol race plagued by tire issues


BRISTOL, Tenn. — Denny Hamlin gained a Bristol Motor Speedway race that changed into a tire-management tournament the place drivers had been in jeopardy of getting flat tires or working out of tires.

Day groups anticipated some tire problems, it was once expected that the tune would rubber up right through the development. The tune by no means took rubber, and that led to a race with a track-record 54 supremacy adjustments — and a track-tying 16 other drivers chief — over the five hundred laps at the high-banked 0.533-mile concrete tune.

Why such a lot of adjustments? Drivers needed to put together the selection on when to progress complete velocity as a result of they knew in the event that they went one hundred pc, their tires would utmost fewer than 50 laps.

“This is the first time the driver played a huge role in a long, long time,” Hamlin mentioned. “It’s a different philosophy from what we’re used to, which is everyone is just kind of on the gas all the time running the bottom, the shortest way around.

“Method was once a plethora do business in nowadays.”

Hamlin, who led a race-high 163 laps, outlasted teammate Martin Truex Jr. month every other teammate, Ty Gibbs, led 137 laps before tire issues foiled him.

Takeaways — all about tire management — from the race where following Hamlin across the finish line were Truex, Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson.

Drivers Blended Critiques

Hamlin felt the tire management fell in his wheelhouse. But when he pitted under green with 53 laps to go, his right rear tire had about two laps left in it.

“Denny drove a superb race,” said Hamlin crew chief Chris Gabehart. “How would I believe if we ran tenth or fifteenth? I will be able to let you know something, I’d have mentioned, ‘Man, that was hard.’ And that’s good.

“It’s supposed to be hard. It’s not supposed to be easy.”

Hamlin spun earlier in the race after blowing a tire and felt that allowed him to figure out how hard he could push. Once he knew the limit, he felt he could control the race. 

“You learned on the fly,” Hamlin said. “You just made adjustments. Each run we made, we just got a little better.”

FINAL LAPS: Denny Hamlin wins NASCAR Food City 500

The biggest challenge was just the surprise and drivers not knowing they would need to manage tires. NASCAR actually gave teams an extra set during the race, increasing the allotment for the event to 11 sets of tires.

And then once they managed tires, drivers had to make a choice on whether to punish their tires and hope someone else would have an issue before they did.

“It was weird to manage and guess on how hard to run, guess on how each run was going to play out,” Larson said. “The strategy side of it seems kind of fun but I never want to do that again.

“To run a race like that every week is not good. … It was just different and we somehow made the most of it.”

The tires were the same as they were at Bristol last fall. The temperatures weren’t much different. NASCAR did use resin instead of a formulated traction compound on the lower groove in hopes of accelerating the rubbering of the track, which would increase grip (which never happened). The resin was used because if NASCAR wanted to race in damp conditions, it was less slick in those conditions.

“We were creeping around there quarter-throttle saving your tires and you just don’t know if you want to go or not,” defending Cup champion Ryan Blaney said. “They say they brought the same tire, but that’s absolute b.s. … I bet it was entertaining to watch. It was a little bit of a wild race — not in a good way.”

Drivers rarely have to manage tires in Cup, and so it was a challenge.

“You blow a tire and you go a lap down,” Gibbs said. “You can’t really control a lot. You’re banking on that caution.”

Goodyear Surprised

Goodyear, which pays NASCAR as part of a sponsorship agreement to provide tires (for sale) to the teams, was surprised of the issues with the tires.

“We’re trying to understand what’s different, why the track is behaving differently than a year ago,” Goodyear racing director Greg Stucker said. “It’s the same [aero] package. It’s the same tire combination. … It’s still a bit of an unknown.”

Goodyear’s Greg Stucker talks in regards to the tire problems clear at Bristol

Goodyear did a tire test last year to try to find a tire that had more tire wear but did not expect it to the extremes seen Sunday afternoon.

“Tire put on is all the time the purpose,” Stucker said. “That’s what society need to see. It creates comers and goers. … We idea we had been in a in reality just right spot utmost time as we raced it within the fall.

“Obviously, something is different now. It is too drastic.”

Stucker mentioned he anticipated they might have a tire take a look at prior to the race at Bristol in September.

NASCAR Happy

Closing fall, groups had 11 units of tires and NASCAR did make a decision to peer if restricting them to ten would develop some tire leadership. That clearly went a tiny too a long way.

“That’s on us, not Goodyear,” NASCAR Eminent Racing Construction Officer John Probst mentioned. “We gave that [set] back during the race.”

John Probst offers his view at the race at Bristol and groups desiring an residue all set of tires

Probst indicated, regardless that, that NASCAR preferred what it noticed and didn’t need to do anything else drastic for the autumn. 

“All in all, I thought it was one of the best short-track races I’ve ever seen,” Probst mentioned. “We’ll go back and look at it all. There were times in the race obviously when there was anxiety around are we going to have enough tires to finish it.

“However, guy, popping out on the finish and staring at all that, I’d no longer need to alternate a lot in any respect in truth. Perhaps simply give them extra tires.”

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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