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The Freshies - Tires, Tires, and Extra Tires at Bristol

Photo Credit: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

By Adam Carabine

Best Oopsie

This weekend’s race at Bristol quickly turned into an episode of Tire Wars.  No, that’s not a real thing, but it could be after Sunday's race.  Bob Ross would’ve been proud, because the best part of the whole ordeal is that it was completely a happy accident.  

Goodyear was asked by NASCAR and by teams to make a tire that would wear out a little faster than what they’d previously run.  Goodyear delivered, and then some.  But even Goodyear officials were left perplexed by the situation.  

When’s the last time you’ve heard of a Goodyear representative (in this case, director Greg Stucker) holding an impromptu media scrum inside the media centre?  

Now, luckily for them and everyone involved, the Food City 500 wound up being a really exciting race, and an overwhelming majority of fans enjoyed the craziness that was Tire Wars.

But even after the race was over and the stress died down, Goodyear still doesn’t quite understand why the track didn’t take rubber the way they were expecting.  

Whether they figure it out or not, I hope it can be replicated at other short tracks. 

Most Interesting Game of Chicken

Because Bristol is such a short track, you can run about 170-185 laps just on one tank of fuel.  While it wasn’t necessarily expected that teams would push that fuel run limit, the tires were tapping out at around 45-55 laps.

What was really fascinating to watch was what I’m dubbing the Game of Chicken during the final longer green flag run.  

If you pit under green flag conditions at Bristol, you’re likely going two laps down on the leader.  But if you run too long on these particular tires, you risk it coming apart, which could end your day prematurely.

No one wanted to pit, because they didn’t want to lose laps to those who stayed out.  But at the same time, laps were ticking down and tires were wearing out.  At one point, Martin Truex Jr. alerted his team over the radio that the front right had gone down.  They instructed him to baby it as best he could and wait until someone else caused a caution.

This is wild! A caution is essentially guaranteed at some point, and it’s a crazy test of mental fortitude - who can stay out the longest and not be the cause of the caution?

Eventually at some point, they all had to cave and come to pit road under green flag, because it was getting too dangerous to stay out.  And somehow the entire field cycled through pit stops.  But boy was that fun to watch.

Worst Paint Scheme

I hadn’t planned on making this a recurring gag in The Freshies, but last week after calling Denny Hamlin out for his terrible Phoenix paint scheme, he went on to win at Bristol.  Naturally, I can’t help but feel responsible.  

So let’s do it again - this week the designs weren’t too bad.  However, if I had to choose, I’d say the worst paint scheme goes to Ty Gibbs.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Best Game of Marbles

There was so much talk about marbles this weekend at Bristol, that someone in the next room might’ve thought they were overhearing Marbula One.  (Shoutout Jelle’s Marble Runs)

In this instance, it was a case of staying away from the marbles.  Even in qualifying on Saturday they were wreaking havoc.  Everyone was given two laps to get the best time they could for their qualifying runs, but most of them got a time on the first lap and then backed it down immediately.  

It’s a wonder we didn’t see anyone going to a backup car on Sunday, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen drivers this confused with the track conditions.  It could’ve easily devolved into a wreck-fest.

Best Stats

Only five cars finished on the lead lap on Sunday, which maybe makes it sound like the race was a snooze, but it really wasn’t.  However, what that means is now that Martin Truex Jr. is the only driver who has finished on the lead lap at every race so far.  He’s got a snazzy best Cup Series average finish to go along with it, too - 8.6.

The race also only featured just a single DNF - Zane Smith.  Considering how volatile the tires were, and how slick the marbles could be, that’s really quite the accomplishment.

Josh Berry had the most Quality Passes (passes while driving in the Top 15) with 105, and about 90% of them may have come on just one lap - more on that later.

I talked about him last week too, but Joey Logano had the worst pass differential on Sunday.  His -33 in that category means he was passed 33 more times than he passed anyone else.  

Ty Gibbs had the best pass differential of the field with a +44.  Somehow it seemed that even as he pushed harder than everyone else, he managed to keep his tires intact.  Not sure whether that was a Joe Gibbs Racing setup thing, but JGR looked good all day.

Best Rookie(ish)

Speaking of Ty Gibbs… Okay, he’s not technically a rookie anymore.  But has he looked good through five races or what.  He’s got the second-best average finish, just barely behind MTJ (8.8), he’s 6th in stage points earned (34, buoyed by his two stage wins on Sunday), and he’s comfortably sitting in 3rd place in the points standings.

The kid has had to grow up quickly after the passing of his father after his Xfinity Series Championship win, and no one would have faulted him if he’d taken a few steps back in his graduation to the Cup Series.  

But did anyone see this coming?  He might not look all that different, but he’s come a long way since Phoenix 2022.

Ty Gibbs, Phoenix Media Day 2022 - Photo Credit: Adam Carabine

Best Video Game Mode

To finish with a fun one, Josh Berry was one of those drivers that pitted early under the green flag and lost two laps.  But boy oh boy did he get them back quickly.  

The last time we had a video game moment in the Cup Series, the world was gifted Ross Chastain and the Hail Melon (which was subsequently banned).

While this isn’t quite to that level, it sure does look like he set the AI to easy and had his way with them.

Here’s an on-board of him on brand new tires against the rest of the field.  


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