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NASCAR Truck Martinsville

Truck teams wished NASCAR was "more aggressive" with rain tires

NASCAR was pleased with the debut of its wet weather tires on an oval track but admitted teams thought it could have utilized them more than it did.

Goodyear rain tires

Following a lengthy delay, first by lightning and then from heavy rain, NASCAR began Friday night’s Truck race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway with a damp track and teams utilizing wet weather tires for the first time on an oval track.

The debut lasted 27 laps until the track had tried enough that NASCAR threw a caution and had teams switch over to normal tires.

Despite repeated delays the remainder of what turned out to be a race shortened from 200 to 124 laps, NASCAR never had teams put the wet weather tires back on.

“I thought Goodyear did a phenomenal job, to be honest,” said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition. “They came here and tested. We had some Cup cars and a couple Xfinity cars and thought the tires held up well.

“We threw the caution on Lap 25 just to kind of be safe, but they could have went the first stage (50 laps) easy.”

Sawyer admitted the biggest feedback it received from teams was their desire to have utilized the tires more than they did.

“That we could have been a little more aggressive – teams thought we could have raced (more) even at 11:30 p.m. ET last night,” Sawyer said. “Once you get that late in the day and we looked at the weather forecast and we were 45 minutes of pretty good rain, and then another 15 to 20 minutes to get the track to a place where we could actually go green.”

At that point, with the race well past the halfway point, NASCAR decided to call the race which left Corey Heim the winner of his first race this season.

Avoiding rain whenever possible

Sawyer said NASCAR will continue to avoid situations of racing in the rain – at least for now.

“You look at the spray (from the tires). We’ve learned so much at Circuit of the Americas a couple years about racing in a monsoon. We won’t do that,” he said. “It’s never been the goal of the short oval wet weather package. And we didn’t last night, we didn’t race in the rain.

“Now, that’s not to say down the road that we couldn’t, but that was never the goal. It was to get us going quicker or to be able to get back to racing faster.”

Reigning Truck champion Zane Smith, who started on the pole Friday night, wasn’t particularly impressed with the wet weather tires.

“I don’t know everyone else’s opinion, but we weren’t good,” Smith said. “We were super tight and fortunately we were able to get normal tires back on and drive back through them and come home with a top three finish.”

Heim said he would have been fine if NASCAR decided to end the race with teams putting the wet weather tires back on.

“I drove to second from fourth to begin the race with the wet (tires),” he said. “It definitely would have been different with the concrete being wet. That would have been a little different from the start when it was totally dry in the corners and wet on the straightaways.

“I was really curious to see the transition from the wet concrete to the dry asphalt but it really didn’t seem like much of an issue. I really don’t think if it was to rain and been a little bit more wet on the track it would have been an issue at all.”

Goodyear rain tires

Goodyear rain tires

Photo by: Lesley Ann Miller / Motorsport Images

Cup Series driver Kyle Busch, who finished second in Friday night’s race, said he believed NASCAR “missed opportunities” to utilize the tires.

“If the intent is to go earlier with this idea, then let’s do it. We were cleared I think 30 minutes before we ended up taking the green flag. Like we wasted 30 minutes with more track drying,” Busch said.

“I think some of that was pit road, but we could have gone sooner. And then we ran on the wets the longest run of the race in a dry condition. And then when it got raining again and the caution was out, just make the call – like alright, wet weather tires and go back on wets, and then let us run however long we run and see what happens with the track.”

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