BRISTOL, Tenn. – NASCAR competitors expressed mixed reviews on the new Bristol tire combination that Goodyear brought to the track this weekend.
Goodyear decided to make construction changes to both the right and left side tire codes. Goodyear spokesman Mike Sibrini said the concentration on the right side tires was to bring them into line with speedway tires, as Bristol performs more like a larger racetrack despite its size.
Juan Pablo Montoya was one of four drivers that participated in a tire test at the short track in June. Denny Hamlin, David Ragan and Scott Speed were also in attendance. Montoya, who qualified eighth (122.248 mph) for Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race, says he hasn't noticed much difference in the tire compound the teams selected from the time of the test until now.
"All the drivers agreed that this was the best tire combination at the time," Montoya said. "It's seems like the track temperature is warmer than when we've tested, but I haven't had any issues."
Montoya's tire specialist Keith "Hoss" Armstrong said the data looked "pretty much like the tire test." Armstrong, whose relationship with Montoya dates back to his open wheel days with Chip Ganassi Racing, added the team "worked mostly on qualifying runs" Friday, but practice "went pretty well."
Greg Biffle has finished fourth in the last two Bristol Cup races. On Friday, he qualified 21st (121.790 mph) and seemed frustrated by the lack of consistency in agreeing on one compound at a track for any length of time.
"We rarely go back to the racetrack with the same set of tires," Biffle said. "I'm having trouble figuring that part out. This racetrack puts on great races. The last couple of races here were good, and now we've got a new tire, and it doesn't seem like it has as much grip. It seems like, in my opinion, it's gonna be harder to run side-by-side.
"The tire is freer into the corner, which spells trouble for the guy on the bottom and the guy on the top if the guy spins out below you. It can be frustrating, but we understand that they constantly have to try to continue tire technology at the same time we're working on our cars. You can't stand still, but you often wonder when you have a great race, and there are no tire issues, why you'd come back with something different."
Five-time Bristol winner Kurt Busch says he didn't know Goodyear had made a tire change until Tuesday. He agrees with Biffle that the constant tire changing makes the teams' jobs "an uphill battle." The Penske cars were at a further disadvantage for Bristol since a Dodge driver was not invited to the test in June. But Busch understands Goodyear's reasoning for the change -- safety.
"A lot of teams were on the edge here in March; there were a lot of tire blowouts on long green-flag runs," Busch said. "If you were to bring the same tire that was marginal in March, you're definitely going to be on edge when it's warmer in August."