By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series prepared for the Monster Energy All-Star Race, many looked to see what kind of racing the ‘option’ tires could produce. One driver interested in the softer compound was seven-time Champion Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson placed his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS seventh on the practice charts with several ahead of him setting blistering fast times on the ‘option’ tires. In qualifying, he ended up fourth after mistakes cost him and his Hendrick Motorsports team the chance at earning the pole position.
Johnson started the race in fourth and finished an uneventful Stage 1 in the fourth position.
Between Stages 1 and 2, crew chief Chad Knaus elected to have the pit crew bolt on the ‘option’ tires. Johnson quickly jumped from fourth to second because of the extra grip. However, he was unable to run down race leader Kyle Larson who was on the ‘prime’ tires.
Thanks to some creative strategies by some of his competitors, Johnson jumped to the lead on the restart in Stage 3. A third quiet and uneventful stage ended 20 laps later as he walked away with the Stage 3 win.
A great pit stop by the No. 48 team helped Johnson win the race off pit road. With Keselowski staying out on old tires, it seemed as if Johnson was poised to take the lead on the restart. A slick move by Kyle Busch dropped Johnson to second to battle with Larson.
Larson and Johnson battled for second throughout the rest of the race with Larson coming off on top. Johnson ultimately crossed the line in third.
Johnson explained that his opinion when asked if multiple compounds of tires could be an regular option in the future,
“In my opinion, yes. We see it work in Formula One. We see it work in IndyCar. I think the garage area, obviously it’s pretty new, but has a favorable opinion of how this went tonight. Personally I don’t have a problem with trying it. I mean, it’s better than having a button that makes the wing go down or a button that gives you more horsepower. I think it’s, you know, a good way, a competitive way, not in a gaming sense, just a competitive way to create different pace cars in the field.”
Johnson did note however that the tires’ trends were fairly similar,
“The trend of handling from my car was the same on the yellows versus the greens. I didn’t see a huge shift in trends over the run and balance change. So it just had a bit more grip and went faster for a short period of time. I think it ended up in the same spot as the yellows did.”
Johnson also gave credit to Goodyear for their first attempt at multiple compounds in a single race,
“I mean, for their first attempt, I would just have to imagine that they were trying to be very smart and intentional with what they did and how they went about it. To not have any failures or big issues tonight I think is a ‑‑ they deserve to be commended on that.”
Now Johnson, Knaus, and the Hendrick Motorsports team will look to rekindle their past success in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.