With the first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup under their belts, NASCAR drivers have set their sights on the Magic Mile.
The Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is one of the shortest races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and the unique dynamics of the track—including a notoriously flat surface with minimal banking—place tire grip at a premium.
To get the most traction from their Goodyear Eagle NASCAR tires, teams will be working to dial in the “perfect” amount of air pressure in each tire for their car’s setup. It’s a balancing act that comes with a constant debate of risk versus reward.
So what’s the connection between tire pressure and performance in NASCAR? Lower tire pressures can translate to a larger “contact patch”—meaning more rubber on the track and added grip. However, the air in tires is also a critical component in supporting the weight of the vehicle. Not running enough air can damage the structure of the tire, reducing durability. In contrast, higher air pressures can bring increased durability, but slower lap times.
This formula is made even more complicated when you consider that tire pressures change with temperature, increasing as the tires warm up during use.
Just like vehicle manufacturers recommend the optimal tire inflation pressure for your car, Goodyear provides teams with its recommended tire pressures before each race. This recommendation represents Goodyear’s perspective of the ideal balance between grip and durability.
“We carefully analyze the conditions at each track, and combine that information with our knowledge of the tire’s construction to develop the recommended tire pressures for each NASCAR race,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing.
Goodyear provides teams with a minimum recommended tire pressure for both left and right-side tires heading into the race weekend. But tire pressures are not mandated by Goodyear or NASCAR. This means teams are free to manage tire pressures on their own and factor it into their race strategy.
Heading into Sunday’s race, fans will undoubtedly be focused on their favorite drivers. But you can bet teams will be keeping a close eye on their Goodyear Eagle NASCAR tires, and how their strategy plays out during the race.