Was the NASCAR All-Star Race’s option tyre a success?

Joey Logano won the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway


The NASCAR All-Star Race is often used as a testing ground for concepts that might be incorporated into points events should they succeed. For the 2024 edition, NASCAR revisited the idea of option tyres, giving teams a softer tyre with better grip but more increased wear. While a noble experiment and certainly better to try it in an exhibition first, North Wilkesboro Speedway was probably not the best site.

Prominent in other disciplines, like Formula 1, NASCAR first experimented with multiple tyres at the 2017 All-Star Race to dismal results (two on-track lead changes, both during restarts). The sanctioning body opted to bring them back in response to the chaotic Bristol race in March when Goodyear’s tyres fell apart after barely thirty laps.

The option tyres, marked in red as opposed to the standard yellow “prime” tyres, did little to assuage the increasing scepticism surrounding the Next Gen car’s feasibility outside of intermediate ovals.

Drivers struggled to pass one another as has been the case at most short track events, resulting in Joey Logano leading all but one of the 200 laps en route to victory.

“I needed more of an advantage to pass for sure,” runner-up Denny Hamlin said. “I run to them and you just couldn’t pass. You would lose a little bit of aero there. I’d give my car a break, I’d try to run to them again, you’ve got to be so much faster to get around.

“Hats off to the track and NASCAR and Goodyear for giving it a try, and certainly hopefully we learned something here for future short tracks.”

Joey Logano leads the field at the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway | NASCAR
Joey Logano leads the field at the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway | NASCAR

Although promoted as being less durable than their prime counterpart, the option tyres ultimately had very little falloff, which when combined with their improved grip easily gave them the upper hand over the primes.

As a result, teams stuck with the reds throughout the final 100 laps without needing to worry about them wearing them. Kyle Larson, just hours after qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 which forced him to start at the rear as he missed All-Star qualifying, easily weaved through the field on newer tyres following a late pit stop, but even this was not enough for him to catch up to the leaders due to the stronger grip.

“There’s no doubt the falloff with the option tire, the soft tire, falls off very quickly the first fifteen laps, but then it would just balance, and it would just stay the same all the way through,” explained Logano. “I think some of that’s because we raced at night and it’s cooler out and the track has got more grip.

Even if North Wilkesboro was a bust, Logano was at least receptive to NASCAR trying new things and felt that different circuits might provide better results. Indeed, there are additional tyre tests planned at fellow short tracks Iowa and Martinsville.

“I don’t see what there is to lose,” he continued. “I don’t know what it would be like at Loudon. There’s a lot of falloff for a little bit and then it stays the same. What would it be like at Loudon where there has been more falloff there in the past with an older surface and all that? What would it be like there? I don’t know, I can’t answer that, I don’t think anyone can.

“I don’t think Goodyear can answer it until they go there and run it. Might be worth a tyre test or just wing it like we did for this one. We ran 800 or something laps here, throwing thirty sets of tyres on this thing, and this was not one of them that we ran. We did all that, and I was like, ‘Jeez, we’re not even running the tyres we ran all these on.'”

Joey Logano celebrates victory in the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway | NASCAR

Repave more of a hit

Even with Logano cruising to such an easy win and the option tyres doing little to impact the on-track action, North Wilkesboro’s owner Speedway Motorsports could at least pat themselves on the back for repaving the track last November.

North Wilkesboro’s two decades of rot before reopening in 2022 meant the pavement was bumpy and in dire need of a fresh coat. Repavings can be hit or miss in NASCAR, either bringing new life to a struggling racing product or making matters worse. Fortunately for SMI, despite a glaring patch in the surface at the start of the day, North Wilkesboro happily fell under the former.

The new asphalt allowed as many as three racing lines to be produced, a welcome sight after the 2023 All-Star Race and most short track races in the Next Gen car era struggled to even open up a second. 11th-place finisher Noah Gragson described the new surface as “really fun” and “one heck of a race track.”

“It’s a new race track, it’s going to be hard to get tyre wear at any brand new race track,” Logano continued. “The fact they made a race track that’s not single groove to me is a great success. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a repave of any size that has been able to be more than one groove ever. To see something three lanes wide, that’s crazy.”

Justin Nguyen
Justin Nguyen is Total-Motorsport.com's resident NASCAR aficionado and is also the off-road reporter for The Checkered Flag.
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