‘Strange’ tire problems plague NASCAR drivers during Iowa Cup practice

NEWTON, Iowa – NASCAR’s first Cup Series practice at Iowa Speedway turned into a tire test and raised questions about the quality of racing Sunday will produce.

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

“It’s very concerning,” Christopher Bell said during 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 blew. Ross Chastain and Ty Gibbs had tires blow out on the track, but suffered no damage. And Tyler Reddick also suffered a flat tire, with no damage to the car.

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

All the problems came around the 20 lap mark with the set of tires, which confused Bell even more. Bell, Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski took part in the Goodyear tire test at the 0.875-mile oval on May 28, when temperatures were about 15 degrees cooler than Friday.

“We were only here, what, a month ago?” Bel said. “And we did 50 laps, like all day, and had no problems at all. I never had a tire problem. It caught me and my team off guard too.”

Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin was equally perplexed.

“It was interesting to see that they showed as much 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 put down and the less wear you have on the tires,” Bell said.

Bell and Cindric were taken by surprise when their tires were blown.

“I didn’t have any indication,” Cindric said. “We were doing a 20-lap run and I started lap 20.”

“I don’t want to blow a tire on an intermediate track, that’s for sure,” Bell said. “I’ve crashed on intermediates before, but that one hurt. It was definitely a sting.”

Ty Gibbs was also surprised.

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

Other drivers had no problems.

“I definitely didn’t feel it,” said Chase Elliott, who was fifth. “So I’m not sure if it was pressure or adjustment related. The Toyotas had all their problems around the same time, so I thought it was a collective problem.”

The track was resurfaced on both corners late in the spring and the tire testing session was the only time the Cup cars were on that surface.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with crossing the old asphalt and reaching the new asphalt,” Elliott said. “That certainly could be the case, but we’re seeing (repaving) in other places, so I don’t think so.”

Noah Gragson was the fastest during the session, completing a lap of 217.988 km/h.

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