Dale Earnhardt Jr. said the tire situation at Martinsville Speedway this weekend was "pretty disappointing" and that the tire was "really crappy," but that NASCAR and its race teams were stuck with what they had.
Teams discovered Friday that the new race tire Goodyear had brought to Martinsville was not laying rubber down on the track and was instead coming apart, leaving marbles in the upper racing groove.
"After 12 laps, everybody was kind of falling off pretty fast," Earnhardt Jr. said. "There were a lot of marbles. You couldn't get out of the bottom groove; you had to run right next to the curb, or you'd get in the marbles and it'd ruin you.
"Once you got in the marbles, you ruin that set. There's no way to get 'em off. We don't go fast enough here to really grain 'em off. It was messy. It was just real messy all day."
Earnhardt Jr. said he asked NASCAR for an explanation – and got one – but couldn't recall the details. He said it "sounded legitimate" and "made a little bit of sense," though.
"We're wishing for the best," he said. "Goodyear is trying to make some changes to their tires and the way their tires are made or whatever. You just don't make changes just to be making changes."
NASCAR's most popular driver, 12th in points, said teams will have to decide what direction to go in based on a guess for how the track will take rubber. Drivers will want the car to be comfortable right away, but if the track eventually takes rubber, it'll get much tighter.
So Earnhardt Jr. predicted crew chiefs would have to leave the car loosened up at the start of the race in hopes that the track would later tighten up.
Though he said the tire "just comes apart," he also said it wasn't as serious of a situation as NASCAR had at Indianapolis in 2008.
The solution in the future would be for Goodyear to conduct more tire testing, Earnhardt Jr. said.
For now, though, it's too late.
"We've had some good events here and hopefully we'll get lucky and the track will rubber up," he said, "but it's not looking so good right now."