The Frontstretch: Second Groove at Charlotte Possible After All? by Mike Neff -- Wednesday May 17, 2006

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Second Groove at Charlotte Possible After All?

Mike Neff · Wednesday May 17, 2006


With the All-Star Challenge on the horizon, did testing give us any indication about what kind of racing we can expect? According to driver sentiment, it looks like there should be some pretty decent racing when Saturday night rolls around.

There is no doubt that the tire Goodyear is bringing to the event is easily interchangeable with the skins on the Flintstone mobile. Teams were able to run 80 laps on a set of tires and only see .005 of an inch of tire wear. At that rate, if tire changes weren’t mandatory during the Challenge, most teams would use the same set of tires for the entire event. That could possibly even be a good thing. According to some drivers and crew chiefs, the tire actually picks up speed as more laps are put on it.

One of the benefits of such minimal tire wear is that there are no "marbles" being created as the tires were down that will get in the outside grooves and make racing difficult. Marbles are the result of the rubber being peeled off of the tires as they wear. With the compound on these tires being so hard, the minimal amount of rubber that is worn off comes off of the tire more like dust than marbles. The lack of marbles is a plus when you consider how the racing may unfold on Saturday night.

The one thing that could make the racing very interesting this weekend is that the cars seem to be quite loose on cold tires. When the teams come out of the pits or during restarts, the cars are probably going to be quite loose. There is potential for fireworks if cautions start to fly, and as everyone knows, cautions breed cautions. With the double file restarts, the Challenge has the potential to see quite a bit of fender banging.

Since the racing surface is brand new pavement, there is grip all over the track. Granted, the fastest way around the track is still going to be the bottom groove, but the racing will not be limited to that groove. First of all, with the tire being so hard, keeping it tight to the yellow line is going to be a difficult prospect. Secondly, the lack of marbles means the second groove will be clean enough to use throughout the event. With the hard tire and a second groove that is available throughout the night, it looks like there will be a great possibility for quite a bit of side by side racing.

The thing to look forward to on Saturday night is simply who can get their car to handle in both grooves. Drivers will try and hug the bottom, and someone who can drive both high and low is going to have the car to beat. There will not be any tire problems, so the race should come down to which team can complete their pit stop the best and which driver can make his car work all over the track. Of course, that is what most races come down to, isn’t it?

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