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Richmond May Feature Controversial Option Tires

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What’s Happening?

In the leadup to the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Nashville, Jim Utter of motorsport.com dropped this interesting nugget, saying, “There may be lots of options on the table” at Richmond, likely alluding to “Option” tires used at North Wilkesboro. Freedie Kraft on “Door, Bumper, Clear” also added to this rumor, saying, “It looks like” we will see option tires at Richmond. The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Richmond on August 11th, just after the Olympic break, so what could happen if these tires come back?

  • For most of 2024, NASCAR has focused on tires instead of aerodynamics to improve the short-track racing product. This came to a head at North Wilkesboro Speedway when they used a second tire compound, called an “Option” tire, during the race.
  • The multiple tire compounds at North Wilkesboro did not ultimately have their intended effect. Despite this, many encouraged NASCAR to go further with it. Could Richmond be the perfect place to make it happen?
  • Fans are not convinced this will actually happen, and there is no confirmation that it will. However, if it does, it would add a layer of intrigue to the race at Richmond.

Why It Failed at North Wilkesboro but Could Succeed at Richmond

The “Option” tires did not have the intended effect NASCAR hoped they would at North Wilkesboro. While both tire compounds showed significantly different falloff rates during practice, those rates evened up during the race, meaning the tires evened out. However, the falloff seen on Friday gave many optimism, and NASCAR vowed to see if they could push it any farther.

Richmond has characteristics that could help the tire situation, primarily the age of the track. North Wilkesboro was a recent repave and repaves often produce very little tire wear. Richmond is the exact opposite.

Tire wear at Richmond is far more drastic, as the old, grainy surface tends to grind the tires down. We saw this on display in the 2022 spring race at the track, where varying tire strategies ultimately decided the race.

With a track that wears tires out more than others, different tire compounds will often wear out more drastically. However, having the tires wear out more is not the solution.

What made the Bristol race in March so entertaining was that drivers were forced to manage tire wear. The drivers who wore the tires out early paid for it over the course of a long run. The tires need to wear out at different paces, and the driver needs to be in some control of the tire wear.

It’s all about creating situations where drivers run at different speeds; tire wear can do that. Richmond will probably wear out tires much quicker than North Wilkesboro, which could allow the “Option” Tires to work better.

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Joshua Lipowski

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