By Lee Montgomery
BRISTOL, Tenn. - Goodyear is taking the extraordinary step of bringing an entirely new right-side tire to Bristol Motor Speedway for this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races.
Around 1,300 tires were shipped from a warehouse in the Charlotte, N.C., as Goodyear attempts to solve tire-wear problems that showed up during Cup and Nationwide practices Friday morning.
Left-side tires will remain the same, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said.
"When you look at situations like this, we have the opportunity to react quick and to get in front of it for the race teams," Pemberton said. "We get together as a group and discuss all the options and the things we can do quickly to provide the teams as much time as we can so they can work on the setups of their cars."
Usually, tires wear slowly and put down rubber in the groove of the high-banked, half-mile track, allowing wear to get better. But instead of the rubber wearing into the track, drivers were reporting tire rubber becoming "powder" in the corners.
"We're wearing them out pretty quick," driver Tony Stewart said after Friday's lone Cup practice. "I'm a little surprised we're wearing them out that fast, but it was that way across pit road. Watching (NASCAR) blow (the track) off in between Nationwide and Cup practice, it was like watching them blow flour across the race track, just dark."
Pemberton said the tires' shoulders - the small strip separating the tread from the sidewall - were wearing too much. Drivers said cords were showing through the shoulders after 30 laps, much shorter than the usual 130-lap fuel run at Bristol.
Goodyear suggested changes to chassis setups to help with wear, but the effects were "negligible," Goodyear's Rick Campbell said. Campbell also said he wasn't sure why the track was so abrasive to the current tire compound.
"That's what we're wondering as well," Campbell said. "Historically it has. Historically we've seen high wear in the first practice sessions, and it always gets better. That's why this decision was made as soon as it was because we did not see that happening."
Goodyear officials said the company has a backup plan for every race weekend should problems crop up.
The issue began after last August's Cup race at the 0.533-mile track, when NASCAR said teams wanted to see a little less rubber being put on the track and a little more tire wear. Goodyear, then, changed the compound to placate the teams but did not conduct a tire test at Bristol.
"The teams didn't like that the track rubbered in too much," Pemberton said. "The race track got hot and greasy and slick. They lobbied for us to have more grip and some potential for a little more tire wear and fall-off. You go after that and try to please the teams."
On Saturday, the Nationwide Series will qualify and start the Scotts EZ Seed 250 on the current tire, with NASCAR throwing a competition caution around lap 25 to allow teams to change to the new tire.
Campbell said Nationwide teams will run tire No. 4408, which was used at Bristol last August.