Keep an eye on the tires in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS – To anyone watching last Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the effect of new tires versus old tires was blatantly obvious.

Alex Bowman, for instance, charged toward the front early in the first green-flag run, only to give all the positions back when his tires faded.

The asphalt at Atlanta is no friend of Goodyear rubber, but the surface at Las Vegas, site of Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 (at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM) is quite different. Repaved in 2006, the track hasn’t degraded appreciably in the last 12 years, making tire wear less of a concern.

But Goodyear has added a variable to the equation with a tire setup designed to increase tire wear at the 1.5-mile track.

“We always want the drivers to have the chance or option or the mistake, so to speak, to wear out the tires too quickly in the run,” said Las Vegas native Kurt Busch. “My car last week (at Atlanta), we were a little guilty of running too strong in the beginning of a run and then faded later in the run. The time that I was conservative to the tires early in the run, I was just slower that whole run. I never made that time back up.

“The asphalt surface here is right in its prime. I’m hopeful that the tires Goodyear brought balance out the long-run speed versus the speed you can gain by coming in, pitting and getting a set of fresh tires and charging up through a restart. I hope that plays into how the race is won, instead of just putting on tires and filling it full of gas, running it to the end and staying out later in the race.”