‘Strange’ tire troubles vex drivers at Iowa practice

NASCAR

NEWTON, Iowa — NASCAR’s inaugural Cup Series practice at Iowa Speedway turned into a test for tires and created questions about the quality of race Sunday will produce.

There were five separate tire problems Friday, the first day Cup cars have ever turned laps at the track located 30 minutes outside Des Moines.

“It is very concerning,” said Christopher Bell of Sunday’s 350-lap Cup Series debut.

Bell hit the outside wall in Turn 4 after a right front tire blew. Austin Cindric made contact with the wall in Turn 2 after his right front tire went down. Ross Chastain and Ty Gibbs had tires go down on the track, but didn’t suffer any damage. And, Tyler Reddick also suffered a flat tire, with no damage to the car.

“It’s strange,” said Bell, who along with Cindric will have to go to a backup car for Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race. “It’s very, very strange.”

All of the issues came around the 20-lap mark on the set of tires, which further perplexed Bell. Bell, Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski participated in the Goodyear tire test at the .875-mile oval on May 28, when temperatures were approximately 15 degrees cooler than Friday.

“We were just here, what, a month ago?” Bell said. “And we did 50-lap runs, like all day long, and had no issues at all. I never had a tire problem at all. It caught me off guard and it caught my team off guard as well.”

Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin was equally perplexed.

“It was interesting to see they had as high of wear as they did in just 20 laps,” Hamlin said.

Bell said he didn’t think the temperature difference was a factor.

“If anything, it should make it better, because the more heat you have, the more rubber you lay down, and the less wear you have on the tires,” Bell said.

Bell and Cindric were caught by surprise when their tires went down.

“I had no indication,” Cindric said. “We were doing a 20-lap run and I was starting lap 20.”

“I don’t want to blow a tire at an intermediate (track), that’s for sure,” Bell said. “I’ve crashed on intermediates before, but that one stung. It was a stinger, for sure.”

Ty Gibbs was also surprised.

“I didn’t know anything was wrong until it went down,” he said.

Other drivers didn’t have any issues.

“Certainly I didn’t feel it,” said Chase Elliott, who was fifth fastest. “So I’m not sure if it was pressure related or setup related. The Toyotas had all of their issues around the same time, so I thought it was a collective issue.”

The track was repaved in both turns late in the spring, and the tire test session was the only time the Cup cars had been on that surface.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with go across the old asphalt and getting to the new asphalt,” Elliott said. “It certainly could, but we see (repaving) at other places, so I don’t think so.”

Noah Gragson was fastest during the session, running a lap of 137.988 mph.

“We were just a little loose and got better in practice,” Gragson said.

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