Carl Edwards had every reason to believe he had one of the best cars at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Then Goodyear called for a rare tire change in the middle of a race weekend, sending every team back to square one in their preparations for today's race (12:30 p.m., Ch. 29).
"The tire is a lot slower and it's going to be a little more difficult to drive," said Edwards, who is on the pole. "It's a challenge for everybody."
Goodyear learned there was a problem Friday when the tires did not lay enough rubber on the track surface. The right-side tires were subjected to considerable wear and lasted only about 30 laps before they began to disintegrate into a powdery substance.
So Goodyear called for nearly 1,300 right-side tires to be shipped to Bristol from North Carolina, and they arrived in time for Saturday's practice. Teams were given only one set to use over the two practice sessions.
"It's not an optimal situation for anybody," four-time series champion Jeff Gordon said. "I feel like Goodyear is responding quickly and has created a safer environment for us. But anytime you change the tire the second day into the weekend, it's going to be a pretty major change. And it has been. The car balance is completely different, the grip level is completely different."
The tire now being used was raced at California and Kansas last year, and has the same outer tread as the tire raced at Bristol last August. But there was no testing data on the tires for use at Bristol, and teams need that information to properly set the handling of the car.
How were teams preparing?
"A lot of reading and a little bit of guessing," said Greg Erwin, crew chief for Greg Biffle. "The car doesn't drive anything like it did most of the day [Friday]."
Biffle qualified his Ford second behind his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, but didn't get much work in Saturday because of a flat in one of the new right-side tires. Since teams had only one set to use, he wasn't able to finish the practice.
"We ran over something and we only got one set of tires, so there's nothing we can do about it," Biffle said. "We got a flat so unfortunately we didn't get a fair shake at it like everybody else."
Meanwhile, Kyle Busch continued his march through NASCAR's record books with yet another victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.
His dominating win Saturday was the 46th of his career in the second-tier Nationwide Series, which puts him three back from tying Mark Martin's record. But in leading 266 of the 300 laps, he became the first driver in series history to lead more than 10,000 laps.
Busch has led a total of 10,035 laps in the Nationwide Series.
And at Bristol? His win Saturday was his 10th spanning all three of NASCAR's national series, and he's led a whopping 2,349 laps on the Tennessee bullring.
"Nobody gets around this place better than he does," crew chief Jason Ratcliffe said.
Busch has won the last four races at Bristol, dating back to August when he had a three-race weekend sweep. He's got four career Bristol wins in the elite Sprint Cup Series, three in Nationwide and three in the Truck Series.