PORTLAND – There will be less time for changing tires and less margin for error when teams do have to swap rubber at this year’s TD Banknorth 250.
But with the shift from Pro Stock to Late Model cars, there will be less of a need to do so.
The drivers are banking on it.
“Last year I ran a 200-lap race at Thunder Road (in Vermont), which is pretty brutal on the tires,” ACT driver Marc Curtis Jr. said. “We’re probably one of the only drivers that did not pit, and we stayed in the top five the whole day.”
This year, with the shift in cars, the tires are also different. Pro Stock cars run on 10-inch slicks, while the Late Models typically run on 8-inch rubber. That difference made experienced Pro Stock driver and defending champion Jeremie Whorff spin in the first corner of his first practice lap this week.
“It’s different heading into the corners for sure,” Whorff said.
Not only will the driving itself be different, but so, too, will the pit strategies.
“I don’t think these cars are like the Pro Stock cars, where if you come in, put fresh tires on, you can get back to the front,” three-time TD Banknorth 250 champion Mike Rowe said.
“The way these tires run now, you can run the whole race on them, I think,” Mike’s son, Ben, said. “If you’re running out front, and there’s nobody coming after you, you can stay right out there.”
But, with drivers knowing that, sooner or later, they’ll have to stop for gas, putting on a set of tires – even if only on the right side – may be beneficial.
“I’m definitely going to have to come in for fuel, so why not throw a couple of tires on there, too, while I’m at it?” current Oxford Plains Speedway Late Model points leader Travis Adams said. “You can definitely put on some tires in the time it takes to put five gallons of gas in.”
Adams believes the condition of each particular race car will also be a factor.
“These are very, very good as far as tire wear is concerned,” Adams said. “The guys that try to stay out there for 150 green-flag laps, yeah, the tires will survive, provided that the car is neutral.”
A car that is too tight, or too loose, will have a problem, though.
“If it’s too tight or loose, they’ll definitely burn the tires off of it,” Adams said.