Crew chiefs offer thoughts on the five tires per night rule

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Shane McDowell

Due to the widely reported tire shortages in racing, the Schaeffer’s Oil Southern Nationals Series- along with many other tours- has instituted a rule that will only allow teams to use five tires over the course of the night for their $4,053-to-win shows and six tires for their $10,053-to-win events. Promoter Ray Cook explained that the rule goes into effect each night at the beginning of qualifying as cars must start the race on the tires they use for time-trials.

Following the race held on July 20th at I-75 Raceway in Sweetwater, Tennessee, InsideDirtRacing.com polled four crew chiefs to get their thoughts on the rule. And more, that initial question was followed up by asking whether a similar rule should be enacted, tire shortage or not, by each series in races that pay in the $4,000 to $5,000 range for the winner.

Shane McDowell, who prepares the Shane McDowell Racing Team Zero Race Car for his brother Dale McDowell, was asked his thoughts. Also, Harold Holly, who wrenches on the Rum Runner Racing Longhorns for Cody Overton, shared his views. David Bryant who prepares and maintains the Blount Motorsports Rockets for Donald McIntosh and Mike Nuchols who handles setups for Ryan King’s Warrior Race Cars house car offered their opinions.

“It’s not a bad deal,” McDowell responded. “It’s according to how your race team is structured. It may hurt me some because I’m usually more conservative on my tires because I will put new tires on to qualify and then I’ll cycle some of the my other stuff in throughout the night. I’ll save a set of tires and qualify on them two or three times so it don’t save us nothing the way I race. Some of these other teams, some people bolt new stuff on every time they hit the race track but we’re not one of those teams.”

Harold Holly

Holly largely agreed with the rule. Particularly for the type of format used by the Southern Nationals and other similar series, he believes the limited tire rule has merits.

“I think the five tires rule is fine, especially for these $4,000-to-win shows,” the former NASCAR Busch Series championship winning pit boss replied. “For the $10,000, he’s going to give us six tires. In a perfect world it would be nice to put on 1600s or whatever but for what we’re doing out here, I think the five tires rule is fine.”

Bryant was more matter-of-fact about the situation. In his view, necessity was the order of the day due to current circumstances.

“It’s what you’ve got to do,” Bryant said. “There’s a limited number of tires so it’s what’s you do.”

Nuchols made a comparison with the two national tours in providing his answer.

“I like it because we used to run some Lucas stuff and that’s what their rule was,” Nuchols explained. “It saves our budget from going through the roof. We run some World of Outlaws stuff that had an open tire rule and you could put however many tires on the track in a night. With the five tire rule, you know you’ve got five tires. We’re all on the same playing field.”

McDowell went on to add that the way he structures his racing program may be different from other team leaders, and as a result, the impact on each team might be different.

“Like I said,” McDowell continued. “I tend to be more conservative, although we are fortunate enough to have excellent partners, but I still have to work off of a budget. I will bolt new tires on if I’m ever doubting something thinking it will be a factor, but if not, I’ll save that same set and qualify on them two or three different nights and then incorporate them in the race program and use them in a heat race or feature or whatever. It don’t make a huge difference to me and I don’t think it affects a lot of the teams. If that’s what we need to do to keep the tire numbers down until they can get things back on track then I’m fine with it.”

Mike Nuchols(right) with Ryan King of Warrior Race Cars

So should this rule persist even without a tire shortage?

The answer may not be as simple as saying yes or no. Cook made the case that allowing teams more flexibility in terms of the number of tires often leads to better racing throughout the night.

Holly concurred with Cook’s assessment.

“It’s definitely better on the checkbook so long as everybody is on the same rule,” Holly said. “But you can put on a much better race if you’ve got the option to put the new tire on. Sometimes whenever we get hemmed up in this, it ends up right around the bottom.”

As was the case with his first answer, McDowell believes the answer as to whether such a measure for $4,000 or $5,000-to-win events should become the rule rather than the exception is more case specific based on the thought process of each team.

“I think so but it’s kind of a double-edged sword because, like I said, sometimes I take stuff we don’t hurt during a race, especially the tire compounds we race a lot in this series, that 1350 and stuff like that and get more use out of it,” McDowell explained. “Sometimes a used tire will be better in a race because it’s already had a heat cycle, it’s cured a little bit, it’s a little tougher, it’s a little lower tread because it’s been buffered, and it won’t retain as much heat. So sometimes I feel like a used tire is an advantage because it can be faster than a new tire. Some people don’t have that same thought process. I think as a whole, it’s not a bad rule because it at least keeps it interesting.”

Blount Motorsports driver Donald McIntosh and crew chief David Bryant

Nuchols is definitely a supporter of the new regulation.

“I think it needs to stay this way,” he insisted. “I don’t think it needs to change. This should have been the rule years ago. I mean, if the highest of the high series that we follow does it, the little series should be doing it. They’re trying to save us all money.”

Bryant, on the other hand, takes the opposite view.

“No, racing ain’t cheap,” the veteran crew chief declared. “You spend what you have to spend to race but it’s the same for everybody. That’s the rules so you live with it. I’d just want to keep it like it was before the tire shortage.”

 

 

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