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NASCAR to experiment with new tires at All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro

NASCAR will use its annual All-Star Race to test a tire using rubber developed by Goodyear for its wet tires to see if it will wear faster than the rubber currently used on Goodyear’s slick tires.

Drivers in the May 19 main event at North Wilkesboro Speedway will have two sets of “prime” tires – traditional slick tires that were used in a tire test there last month – and two sets of “option” tires – tires that are slick tires (not grooved) but use the rain tire rubber that NASCAR uses on short tracks and road courses.

The event will last 200 laps with a caution on lap 100 where teams must make a four-tire pit stop. There will be another caution on lap 150 where teams will have the opportunity to make a pit stop. Which tires they put on during pit stops will be the teams’ decision.

Cup drivers praised the wet tires used in wet conditions on short tracks at North Wilkesboro last year and at Richmond this year. NASCAR wants to see if this formula can be replicated with a slick tire on a dry track, which could improve short track racing. North Wilkesboro is a 0.625 mile track and was repaved during the offseason.

“In our testing at North Wilkesboro, there was a significantly greater loss of lap time with what became the optional tire than with the premium tire,” said Goodyear racing director Greg Stucker. “We worked very hard on our short track tire package and wanted to evaluate something more aggressive. The All-Star racing format, in a non-points setting, is the perfect opportunity to do that.”

Rain tires will also be available if the race must take place in wet conditions.

Automatic qualifiers for the main event are the 2023-24 race winners plus former Cup Series champions/past full-time All-Star winners: Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott , Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney. , AJ Allmendinger, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell, Joey Logano, William Byron, Michael McDowell, Tyler Reddick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Daniel Suarez. Shane van Gisbergen is eligible but does not plan to compete.

There will also be three places available for anyone else participating: two places for the Open race and one winner of the fan vote.

Last week, 2022 All-Star winner Blaney said he expected the tires to be experienced during the All-Star race.

“I know it’s new ground in Wilkesboro, but I think there’s a lot of discussion going on right now about crazy things and I guess we’re going to start throwing darts,” Blaney said. “Now is the time to do it.”

Josh Berry, a Cup rookie known for his short track prowess, said time is running out.

“I think they need to go for it,” Berry said. “They need to get to the other side and see if they can learn anything and see if it makes a difference or not. These are all things we definitely need to do.

“We need to do it as soon as possible. I think they need to be aggressive. I think the All-Star Race is going to be a good opportunity to do a repaving.”

Here is the format for the all-star weekend:

Friday May 17

–Practical for all cars. Teams have three sets of main tires and two sets of optional tires for practice, qualifying, heats and the Open.

–Open qualifying: Two rounds with the best lap counted. All on the main tire.

–Cup Qualifying/Pit Crew Challenge: Three laps (all on the main tire), with at the end of the second lap, a pit stop with four tires (the fueler must engage the fuel can but will not refuel the car). The fastest time over three laps will be the pole sitter for the first qualifying race and the all-star event. The fastest stop, based on the timing lines on pit road from one box before and one box after the pit box, will determine the pit team champion as well as the order pit stop selection.

Saturday May 18

–60-lap All-Star races with lineups determined by qualifying (odd placings in the first heat, even placings in the second). All rounds count with possible extension. Teams may use tires of their choice. Watch out for lap 30 where a team must make a 4-tire stop. Round 1 establishes the inside row for the All-Star Race (except the pole sitter is on pole for the All-Star Race) and Round 2 establishes the outside row.

Sunday May 19

–Open: 100 lap race, all laps count with an attempt to overtime. Teams can start with any tire. Watch out on lap 50 where they have to make a four-tire stop. The top two finishers advance to the All-Star Race and the winner of the fan vote enters the All-Star Race.

–All-Star Race: 200 lap race, all laps count, overtime rules in effect. Teams have two sets of primary tires and two sets of optional tires. Must start with optional tire. Caution on lap 100 with a mandatory stop on four tires. Be careful on lap 150 with no obligation to stop or not.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He spent decades covering motorsports, including more than 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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