For the last few weeks, one thing has surprised me more than anything. Obviously, the idea of seeing Regan Smith get to victory lane was a surprise in itself, and that is definitely something I will remember as the year progresses. The “Monster Mile” at Dover didn’t surprise me in who won.
Matt Kenseth was in the right position at the right time, and the team made the right call when it mattered most.
But, for the last two weeks, what has surprised me the most is how both drivers went to victory lane. That surprising fact was that both went to victory lane on a pit call that in years past would not have worked at all.
Here’s what I mean. It would be an outrageous idea as little as four years ago to go to the Darlington Raceway and try to win a race on a late pit call to either not pit or just take two tires. The reason why was simple…the track eats tires for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Drivers admit that on that old surface, after two laps, the tires were junk. It wasn’t a surprise when after a green flag, should a caution come even as early as seven laps, every team would come in to get new tires, and four tires at that.
The track was resurfaced after 2007, and now teams can actually run on a set of tires for a lot longer, and some even went for the two-tire, or no tire strategy. Just the thought of that happening at Darlington was crazy, but it showed last week that it can work. Regan Smith beat Carl Edwards on old tires, and everyone was surprised it could be done.
Now, onto Dover. The concrete surface was actually taking in essence too much rubber according to some drivers. The rubber being laid down could be easily seen since the concrete grey turned to a deep black.
Having too much rubber laid down created a problem that was more common to the average winter traveler. It was making the race track feel like “black ice” since the cars were sliding across the rubber, even on brand new tires.
However, knowing that new tires were so much faster, on the final caution the lead cars of Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer all decided on new tires on all four corners. But, Mark Martin decided to stay out, while six others elected for right side tires. Early in the day it was shown after a caution that two tires didn’t look like it would be good.
Yet, at the time, not much rubber was laid down on the track. That made the two-tire strategy seem useless cause the teams that did do it fell back quickly.
That wasn’t the case on the final restart as both Martin and Kenseth were able to break away and show that two tires or no tires could win the race, and did win the race.
It just is unreal how the Goodyear engineers have manufactured a tire that has been able to be just as good fresh off the truck as they are after it has already been worn in. Considering the tire that they are using is the same dimension as it was before the “car of tomorrow” was introduced, a lot of praise has to be given. After the tire issues Goodyear faced at Bristol where the new compound they brought just turned to dust, they have been on the ball bringing the correct compound for each track. That weekend they had truckloads of new tires come in and not one complaint followed.
There’s always room for improvement and that’s why Goodyear constantly tests tires to see if a new compound is needed and will work for other tracks. Just goes to show that they progress in tire technology just like NASCAR does in racing technology.
Four tires, two tires, or no tires is now a constant question at the track. The problem is each week the answer is different, and that keeps the fans and drivers wondering what strategy will get them to victory lane.
RESULTS: 1-Kenseth 2-Martin 3-Ambrose 4-Kyle Busch 5-Vickers 6-Bowyer 7-Edwards 8-Truex Jr. 9-Johnson 10-Harvick
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Earnhardt Jr. 14-Kurt Busch 17-Gordon 29-Stewart 36-Kahne
CAUTIONS: 6 for 28 laps. Laps 21-24 (#20 spin-BS), 42-45 (competition), 164-169 (rain), 218-222 (debris), 333-337 (#4 accident-T1), 363-366 (#42 spin-T4).
LEAD CHANGES: 23 among 11 drivers. Johnson 1-41, Bliss 42, McDowell 43-44, Edwards 45, Johnson 46-107, Kenseth 108, Earnhardt Jr. 109, Truex Jr. 110, Johnson 111-142, Edwards 143-163, Johnson 164, Allmendinger 165, Johnson 166-188, Edwards 189-217, Johnson 218, Edwards 219-283, Johnson 284-285, Montoya 286-287, Johnson 288-312, Edwards 313, Johnson 314-333, Bowyer 334-362, Martin 363-368, Kenseth 369-400.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 11 Mins, 7 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 125.578 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 2.122 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS (Top-12): 1. Edwards, 416 points; 2. Johnson, -24; 3. Kyle Busch, -37; 4. Earnhardt Jr, -52; 5. Harvick, -54; 6. Kenseth, -74; 7. Newman, -76; 8. Bowyer, -80; 9. Kurt Busch, -80; 10. Stewart, -88; 11. Martin, -92; 12. Biffle, -107