Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – LAS VEGAS, NV – To anyone watching last Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the effect of new tires versus old tires was blatantly obvious.
Alex Bowman, for instance, charged toward the front early in the first green-flag run, only to give all the positions back when his tires faded.
The asphalt at Atlanta is no friend of Goodyear rubber, but the surface at Las Vegas, site of Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 (at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM) is quite different. Repaved in 2006, the track hasn’t degraded appreciably in the last 12 years, making tire wear less of a concern.
But Goodyear has added a variable to the equation with a tire setup designed to increase tire wear at the 1.5-mile track.
“We always want the drivers to have the chance or option or the mistake, so to speak, to wear out the tires too quickly in the run,” said Las Vegas native Kurt Busch. “My car last week (at Atlanta), we were a little guilty of running too strong in the beginning of a run and then faded later in the run. The time that I was conservative to the tires early in the run, I was just slower that whole run. I never made that time back up.
“The asphalt surface here is right in its prime. I’m hopeful that the tires Goodyear brought balance out the long-run speed versus the speed you can gain by coming in, pitting and getting a set of fresh tires and charging up through a restart. I hope that plays into how the race is won, instead of just putting on tires and filling it full of gas, running it to the end and staying out later in the race.”
DID ATLANTA SHOW US A KINDER, GENTLER KEVIN HARVICK?
Perhaps Kevin Harvick had a tinge of compassion for a rookie driver.
Perhaps he forgot for a moment that his Stewart-Haas Racing organization was no longer affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports and that SHR had switched from Chevrolets to Ford.
Perhaps Harvick was so confident in his No. 4 Ford that he didn’t mind giving 20-year-old Hendrick neophyte William Byron a lap back when the caution flew for the first time last Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Whatever the case, Harvick slowed noticeably coming to the yellow, allowing Byron to regain his position on the lead lap. And Byron wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
“He did me a big favor,” Byron said on Friday at Las Vegas motor Speedway. “I had corded both my rear tires, and I was fading quick. Yeah, he cut me a big break there. Definitely appreciate that.
“That was exactly what it was. He just let me have the lap back. He was flying. He was lapping people left and right.”
And, yes, Harvick won the race in dominating fashion, leading 181 of the 325 laps.
Ryan Blaney has put the gambling behind him, but that wasn’t always the case. Now he’s more of a “foodie” when he comes to Las Vegas. “I used to gamble a lot when I turned 21, and I don’t anymore, because I would lose,” Blaney said. “I don’t really gamble much anymore. I like to go to dinner here. There are some good restaurants here. I don’t really gamble here anymore—only on the track.”…
Kyle Busch has hit a “trifecta” twice in the past, winning races in all three of NASCAR’s top three touring divisions on the same weekend at Bristol. This weekend Busch will attempt to sweep all three races at his home track. “Good to be here in Vegas and good to have an opportunity to get back at the home track and run the triple here this weekend,” Busch said. “We’ve talked about it for a long time, ever since the announcement last summer of the chances of coming out here and being able to run for two triple weekends in Las Vegas in 2018. I’m looking forward to being able to have the opportunity to run the first triple here this weekend. Hopefully be able to go out there and get it accomplished and set that to the side and get a good weekend for us and get some good notes built up for when we come back here for Playoff time (in September).”