A tire compatibility test at Rockingham Speedway on Tuesday yielded mixed results from drivers and teams from both the CARS Late Model Stock Tour and the Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge.
CARS Tour operator Jack McNelly remains determined to have solved every challenge in advance of the season opener at the venerable 1.017-mile speedway on March 6, but he summed up the initial test in one word.
“We made a lot of strides and found out a lot of things, but the one thing we’re not exactly satisfied with is the tire combinations,” McNelly said. “We ran out of time and daylight, so we’re going to go back on Tuesday. This is a big opportunity for the series, the track and the teams, so I want to go to Rockingham knowing that the drivers have a safe tire they can race on and deliver a good show with.”
— Pit Row TV (@PitRowTV) December 15, 2020
Once Tuesday’s tire test concluded, both divisions had an idea of what to do moving forward.
The General Tire branded sets that are expected to be used for the event showed speed and durability, but McNelly said there were some irregularities regarding tire wear, resulting in several instances of vibrations.
Timothy Peters, who competed in the last major event at Rockingham in 2013, was satisfied with the tires after making several extended runs in the afternoon. Perennial CARS Tour contender Layne Riggs expressed a similar reaction. In contrast, 2020 champion Jared Fryar had numerous issues with his tires throughout the day.
“I was a little surprised,” Fryar said. “The car didn’t bottom out or anything. I wanted to push it a little bit for the tire guys, but our sake, too.”
Fryar compared it to the tests in advance of the inaugural U.S. Short Track Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway and said teams were going in blind.
“All we’ve seen is pictures and didn’t know how banked it was, this and that,” Fryar added. “Pictures never do justice for a place like this. The track has a lot of banking, but it’s in great shape, and we’re going to put on a show.”
Wow, now this is speed! What an experience. Coming back a week from today for round 2 on tire testing. So cool! pic.twitter.com/H6hmkBVRnB
— Layne Riggs (@LayneRiggs99) December 15, 2020
While McNelly attributed some of the issues to different setups brought by each team, he affirmed that there are numerous unknowns the CARS Tour and Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge are still facing three months ahead of the March 6 race. However, he is also confident that any issues regarding tire wear will be solved once more data is collected.
“You had three Late Models there and all three probably had different setups,” McNelly said. “One guy is loose, another guy is tight, but that’s the nature of everything. You try to get it to where the cars are as neutral as possible and have even tire wear with proper temperatures. It’s all trial-and-error, just like any other test.”
The Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge Series will bring a different tire to the track for a test in January. They had tested a 13-inch 790 street tread tire on both sides of the cars piloted by Shane Canipe and Travis Miller.
The tires recorded excessive temperatures of over 300 degrees after only eight laps, prompting Hoosier’s Steve Freeman and series president Travis Provost to make the decision to try a 14-inch 795 tire on the right side during a January test.
“We’re disappointed that the tire package didn’t work but we’ve got a lot of data that we brought home and are able to get ready for another tire test,” Provost said. “The last thing we want to do is put cars on the track without making sure that we’ve got the safest possible package to run. I believe, with the 795, this race is doable. Hoosier does too.”
One of the key figures behind reviving @RockinghamSpeed is Wake County Speedway co-owner Charlie Hansen.
He talks about his expectations for the test today. pic.twitter.com/9ewDmvYPBq
— Short Track Scene (@ST_Scene) December 15, 2020
McNelly’s goal for next Tuesday’s test is to find the proper balance between tire wear, tire pressures and tire temperatures. McNelly intends to have set pressures for the season-opener at Rockingham that will be closely monitored to ensure that drivers do not have to worry about tires by the time they take the green flag in March.
“Nobody has run on that track in seven years,” McNelly said. “The surface is already very abrasive, and with no rubber having been on the track in seven years, it’s going to take a while to get rubber in the grooves. The track is like a cheese grater, and the rough surface is just grating the rubber off these tires.”
Following the second tire test on Tuesday, the CARS Tour will hold two open tests for all competitors on Jan. 23 and Feb. 20.
LATE MODEL TIMES
1. 14 Jared Fryar- 24.70
2. 12 Timothy Peters- 24.74
3. 99 Layne Riggs- 24.86
Note: Matt Weaver and Andy Marquis contributed to this story.