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« Kevin Harvick quickly becoming the “poster driver” for the new Chase format | Main | Worn tires and worn tracks are making for great racing »

Don’t be too quick to only blame Goodyear for Fontana tire issues

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.

Topics: Articles |

11 Responses to “Don’t be too quick to only blame Goodyear for Fontana tire issues”

  1. Michael in SoCal Says:
    March 24th, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    It seemed to me a number of factors came into play that lead to the large number of tire failures yesterday out in Fontana. They include:
    1) Teams pushing the limits on air pressure and camber
    2) New aerodynamic and height rules placing higher demand on the tires, particularly the left-sides
    3) More use of the apron, and the impact of the change in track banking at high speeds on the tires
    4) The bumps on the backstretch at Auto Club Speedway
    5) Particular driving styles
    6) Not enough time for Goodyear to do tire testing and have a new tire available in time for an early-season race

    I think item # 6 is being overlooked, but hopefully there are tire tests scheduled for Texas, Charlotte & Kansas (or at least a couple of them) so that the teams and Goodyear do not see a repeat of yesterday’s race.

    All that said, I think Keselowski’s spotter said it best - they’re out there racing, they’re pushing the limits, and this is what results sometimes.

  2. Tony Geinzer Says:
    March 24th, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Richard, would having Tire Choice (More than 3 Tire Marks) help Sprint Cup? It’d be fun to see Hoosier own the Dirt, Firestone own the Streets, Goodyear own the ovals and Yokohama own the Road Courses. Since you had strong feelings about it in the Lucas Division, would more series help fix tire issues than tire war or tire choice?

  3. Bill B Says:
    March 25th, 2014 at 6:13 am

    I was reading comments on another website regarding the tire issue and one comment was asking the question, how could Goodyear make a blanket statement that the tire problems were the result of aggressive setups without actually inspecting the cars or researching the situation. What I saw was just someone covering their ass and pointing the finger elsewhere in a pre-emptive move to deflect blame. The teams were using agressive setups - probably so but prove it before you dismiss the failures summarily.

    Personally, I love tires that get worse during a run and I too hope Goodyear’s answer isn’t to bring back a rock hard tire that doesn’t wear. That would be a step backward. Still, back in the 90’s we had tires that wore out but I never remember them blowing up after only 40 miles of racing. California’s track can’t be more abrasive than 90’s Darlington can it?

  4. GinaV24 Says:
    March 25th, 2014 at 8:24 am

    I don’t want to see Goodyear revert to the “rock hard tire” option either. I believe that a tire that wears out produces better racing. Years ago, a driver had to be able to manage his tire wear, as well as the fuel mileage, not just be able to go all out w/o regard to the equipment. IMO, this also made for better racing. Gordon, who is one of the drivers who knows how to do that, seemed able to manage the tire issues w/o having a blow out but of course lost the race because others weren’t able to do the same.

    I am tired of hearing Larry Mac and his mantra that Goodyear is NEVER to blame and of course NASCAR was right there after the race saying the same thing. I’m sure that there were a lot of factors in play at California. The changes to the car made over the season, NASCAR getting out of the way in some respects to forcing camber & tire pressure and the track wear. Personally even though the ending made me want to scream because of the last caution flag costing Gordon the race, altogether I thought it was a far better race to watch than the boring parades that Fontana was known for.

    Of course, there is a difference between tires that wear vs tires that fail. Maybe more testing would be in order rather than all the knee jerk reactions.

  5. Jesse Says:
    March 25th, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Clint Bowyer had the worst time with his tires when he was going about 10 mph with 2 laps to go, could not stop his car from spinning out and Jeff Gordon leading.

  6. Earner Says:
    March 25th, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Don’t see this one as Goodyear (& I love to bash them) the load on the car has chaged at a track like that combined with team set ups & pressures…& What about all the seams at the track (esp when hot) ..Are those tearing small chunks out of the tires first? ..Yeah this one is solvable & I don’t think it’s in Goodyears house, Give us tires that wear please

  7. Michael in SoCal Says:
    March 25th, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Jesse - I couldn’t help but wonder if he had an itch on his arm that needed to be scratched.

  8. Russ Says:
    March 25th, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Hmm. Increased down force, lower ride height, increased speeds, softer side walls.
    Well ride height has nothing to do with increased loads on the tire. The other three of course do. However if I was a betting man I’d say the softer side walls combined with low air pressures caused excessive heat build up.
    Most major racing series allow devices similar to what you have today on even the least expensive road car to try and prevent, or at least give warning before there is a failure.

  9. GinaV24 Says:
    March 26th, 2014 at 7:19 am

    Michael in SoCal — LOL, thanks for saying that, I had so many comments I wanted to make but because I know it would be taken as sour grapes from a Gordon fan, I refrained.

    Thank you, thank you!

  10. Michael in SoCal Says:
    March 26th, 2014 at 9:28 am

    You’re welcome GinaV24!

  11. MDHJeff24 Says:
    March 26th, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    ‘Michael in SoCal’ has a great point that never even occurred to me. Use of the apron almost certainly must have been a factor!

    Great race!