By admin | March 24, 2014
By Richard Allen
If you’re like me, you feel a little sick to your stomach every time you hear a certain television announcer assure viewers that tire troubles at a particular track are “not the fault of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company”. But after this weekend’s events at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., I may have to agree with that frequently offered assessment. And there is at least some evidence that my belief is well founded.
As has been well documented, Sunday’s Auto Club 400 had several incidents of cars suffering significant tire failures. To a degree, some of the fault has to lie with Goodyear. After all, they are the manufacturers of the tires. In particular, the construction of the tire side walls was brought into question by some participants and observers. But, there was evidence that came to light during and after the race that indicates the teams and drivers played a role in the tire troubles as well.
The setups used by the teams and the driving styles of the drivers have to be taken into consideration. Also, rule changes instituted this past off-season by NASCAR which allow for greater down force and lower ride heights are part of the equation.
Brad Keselowski, who is known for his candor, took to social media after the race to offer his explanation. The driver who goes by the Twitter name @keselowski declared, “technically not wear. More like massive unpredictable failures caused by increased demands.” He then went on to add, “greater heat, higher load and faster speeds created this season.”
It should be noted that Keselowski himself was the victim of a torn up tire during the race.
Keselowski’s comments seem to imply that the new rules, coupled with the tire’s construction, led to the failures. Further, his spotter, Joey Meier(@2spotter on Twitter), added that team setups played a roll when he tweeted that, “Funny how people want to BLAME someone or something. Its called racing. We raced. Limits were pushed. Parts failed. That’s what we do.”
But it was more than rules and setups that seemed to have helped bring about the failures. According to a conversation that occurred mid-race over the team radio of eventual winner Kyle Busch, driving styles were also part of the problem.
After a pit stop, Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Dave Rogers keyed the mic on the team radio to ask Busch a question. “Did you use the apron more than you had been(earlier in the race) during that run?” he asked in a tone that a parent might use when quizzing a child suspected of doing something he had been warned not to do.
Busch responded as if he had been caught. “Yeah, I guess so.” To which Rogers replied, “Don’t Do that.”
Perhaps the use of the track’s apron by drivers seeking to aid ill-handling cars might have been damaging to the tires. A car running on the flat apron instead of the banked turns could very well have increased the side loads on the tires and led to the previously mentioned failures.
But with all of this said, the key fact about the Auto Club 400 in Fontana and the previous week’s Food City 500 in Bristol is that the racing was outstanding in both. And further, a major contributing factor in that was tire wear. As both Clint Bowyer and Elliott Sadler said after Bristol, tires that wear away over the course of a fuel run provide the best racing.
My concern from all of this talk of tires is that Goodyear will wind up catching so much flak that they decide to revert to the old strategy of bringing rock hard tires to each track. That’s what happened after the tire debacle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2008. As we have seen in recent years, that does no good for the racing on the track. As a matter of fact, hard tires are counterproductive.
In my opinion, the Auto Club Speedway’s rough surface and the tires that “give up” during the course of a fuel run combined to make for good racing and an intriguing outcome. To force Goodyear to bring hard tires to the track as a means of avoiding bad publicity would hurt a sport that needs better racing to improve lagging television ratings and attendance at many of its tracks.
Look into the possible side wall issue to make sure there is no problem, but otherwise, leave the tires alone and encourage the teams and drivers to adjust.
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