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Early word from Phoenix tire test not encouraging for upcoming race

By admin | August 30, 2011

By Richard Allen

Almost immediately after the checkered flag fell on Jeff Gordon and the rest of the field that followed him in February at the Phoenix International Raceway, speedway officials went to work resurfacing the one-mile track. Now, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company is conducting tests to determine what type of tires they will need to bring back when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races there on November 13th.

The repaving of tracks, more often than not, results in racing that proves to be one grooved and right on the bottom in each turn. While speeds may be high on newly resurfaced tracks, competition is less than noteworthy.

Reports coming out of Monday’s tire test do not bode well for the hopes of a race filled with passing and tight competition.

“Test went well today at PIR,” said Jimmie Johnson via the social network Twitter. “It took most of the day to burn in a lane. Tomorrow will be better yet, hopefully a wider grove.”

The air temperature in Phoenix was well over 100 degrees. If it took hours to “burn in a lane” then the tires were extremely hard. New pavement and the word of hard tires does not offer hope of anything other than one-groove racing for the race in November.

“Once we developed that groove we saw better speed and better comfort,” said Kyle Busch. “Certainly we’re not going to see the speed that we expected because it’s so hard for Goodyear to make a tire to withstand this heat. It’s gonna develop so much tire heat the tires will melt of blow apart.”

It is not far fetched at all to think Goodyear will heed the younger Busch’s advice in regard to tires blowing out. So that said, there is little reason to believe the tire manufacturer will return on race weekend with anything other than a hard tire that will not succumb to the conditions.

And more, consider that the Phoenix race will be the next-to-last on the schedule, and thus, will play a significant role in determining the 2011 Sprint Cup champion. The last thing Goodyear would want at such a time would be an Indianapolis-like debacle that causes a flaw in the title chase, and bad public relations for the company.

Kyle’s brother Kurt offered a description of the type of racing to be expected in November on Monday evening’s Race Hub show on the Speed network.  “The way the track temp is, the tires and the dirt on the track is with the construction, we’re slip sliding around,” he said. “They say it’s slippery when wet. It’s slippery when hot.”

However, Kurt Busch did offer a glimmer of hope as he discussed the possibility that a second tire test might make a difference. “I’m hoping when we come back in October we’ll have a better feel for it but right now we’re helping Goodyear find a tire that will provide some great racing action,” the 2004 champion declared.

Hopefully, that next test will provide Goodyear and teams with a better understanding of what tire compound will best suit the new pavement and conditions. But the best guess might be that tires will be constructed in such a way as to not determine the champion. And in so doing, the tires and the pavement may very well inadvertently determine the champion.

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4 Responses to “Early word from Phoenix tire test not encouraging for upcoming race”

  1. Richard Allen Says:
    August 30th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    On Tuesday, Johnson tweeted that, “The track is a lot more friendly today now that we have some rubber down. It’s fun to drive, I hope everyone likes it.”

  2. Kevin Says:
    August 31st, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    It is important to note that the temperature’s will be somewhat cooler in the desert in November than it is this time of year.

    But the bottom line is, I can’t think of a single track where the racing got better after a repave than it was before the repave.

  3. Michael in SoCal Says:
    August 31st, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    One other thing to consider is that there will be two or three other races (Camping World Trucks, Nationwide and I think the K & N Series West) that weekend, with all the practice and qualifying and racing to lay down extra rubber on the track. That hopefully will help.

  4. Steve Says:
    September 1st, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I’d like to know who determines who goes to these tire tests. 2 Hendrick (yes Tony is with Hendrick), 1 Roush, 1 Gibbs, 1 Penske and zero Childress drivers attended. I’m not a Childress fan but I might be a little upset that Harvick wasn’t invited if I’m a fan. And why weren’t the rest of the Chase eligibles allowed to test as well?

    Could it be that Nascar is trying to give the attendees a little advantage? In my opinion, it should have been drivers like Burton, Bobby Labonte, Martin or guys with experience, but also guys that won’t be involved in the championship doing the test to keep it fair for all, or invite one team from each organization. This again reeks of favoritism towards certain teams/drivers.