But pole-sitter Marcos Ambrose and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were among the drivers who questioned the decision to change the tires.
"This ain't cool," Earnhardt said.
Ambrose was more specific, adding: "We were out there trying to save miles on the engine, so we never really busted off a good run. The tire is very different. It hasn't got much grip. You are loose in, shake in the middle and then on the gas [you] spin yourself out. It feels unbalanced and a little bit wobbly -- and you don't want to be wobbly at 200 miles per hour. You want to feel like the car is underneath you."
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, said the speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour plus the blistering of left-side tires on some cars during Friday's two practice sessions at the newly-repaved, 2-mile track led to the decision to make the change. The "new" tires actually were designed and manufactured in 2006 in an effort to ensure safety and reasonable speeds following a repaving at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"Goodyear, they're the tire guys, they're the experts," Pemberton said. "We met with them through the course of [Friday]. There was a period of time where we thought the scuffing of the tires to try to harden them up would be sufficient. But as the day went on, the speeds continued to increase -- and so [Friday] evening the decision was made to pull those left-side tires off and use a new tire for the race."
The practice of scuffing is when new tires are placed on a car and run for a few laps so that the tire can go through a heating and cooling process that makes the compound of the tire harder and more durable. Many teams attempted to scuff their tires during Friday's two practice sessions, which required them making additional laps.
The left-side tires used for a Thursday test session at MIS and Friday's two practices still were used in Saturday's Cup qualifying. Greg Biffle posted the highest average speed during the final Friday practice, turning his fastest lap at 204.708 mph -- while Ambrose won the pole on Saturday by posting a track-record qualifying lap of 203.241 mph.
"The new tire should have a little less grip and so the speeds should decrease," Pemberton said.
That proved correct when Biffle posted the top speed again in the extra practice, but this time it was only 195.647 mph. He was followed on the speed chart by Jimmie Johnson (194.295), Carl Edwards (194.138), Kasey Kahne (194.070) and Jamie McMurray (193.159).
Both Pemberton and Goodyear executive Greg Stucker said the decision to go with the different left-side tires was made with both safety and competition in mind. Had the change not been made, both said the fear was that tires would begin blistering after 15 to 20 laps in Sunday's race -- possibly leading to blowouts that could have caused multiple wrecks.