By admin | July 27, 2008
By Richard Allen
The AllState 400 at the Brickyard is mercifully over. Rather, it could have been called the AllState 25, 25, 25, 25, etc…
What many hoped and expected to be a great race turned into a tire management and competition caution fiasco. NASCAR announced well before the race that there would be a “competition caution” somewhere around lap 10. It actually turned out that the planned yellow flags flew about every 10-12 laps throughout the entirety of the 160 lap event.
In all, there were 11 caution periods causing almost a third of the race to be run behind the pace car.
Many long time NASCAR participants such as Richard Childress and Jeff Gordon said the race was like none they had ever seen before.
Indeed, no one had ever seen the likes of this race and hopefully never will again.
Since the issue was centered around tire wear many will be quick to blame Goodyear, and they will be right, to a point. However, the tire and rubber giant is not the only entity at fault for this nightmare of a race.
Goodyear had a tire test some weeks ago and saw there were issues with the right side tires. It seems, however, they did little to correct the problem, or if they did they totally missed with their correction. It almost appears as though they did not account for the differences between last year’s car and the Car of Tomorrow.
The CoT is known to create more of a load on the right side of the car which in turn causes greater wear on those tires. There were tire problems in this race last year and apparently Goodyear did not factor that or the differences among the cars into their equation when constructing these tires.
Goodyear is one part of this mess but so too is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
IMS has used a diamond grinding process to create a smooth yet abrasive surface on the track. This process is perfect for Indy cars. Those cars are lighter and have a lower center of gravity than their stock counterparts. Thus, there are not the load shifts experienced by stock cars when Indy cars enter the corners.
The diamond grinding process allows drivers of all types of cars have a better feel for the track. Unfortunately, the process allows for too much grip. If the tire being used is too soft the track will simply chew up the rubber. That is what happened on Sunday.
In past races on this track and others to have used similar methods the track would “come in” and the tire wear would decrease. Meaning, as more rubber was put down the surface would not take such a heavy toll on the tires. The track never did “come in” on Sunday because the tires were so soft they wore into very fine bits of rubber and simply blew up to the top of the track. Thus, the track was just as bad at the end of the race as it was at the beginning.
Finally, Goodyear and IMS certainly played significant roles in what happened during the AllState 400 but the bulk of the blame lies with NASCAR.
NASCAR is the ultimate overseer of competition. NASCAR sets testing dates. NASCAR determines when it is unsafe or detrimental to the sport for an event to be contested. All of these decisions are made by the sanctioning body and they failed on every count.
Sure, it sounds good for high level officials to come out during or after the race and say they did the best they could or to imply that the events were beyond their control but things could have been done differently.
If this really is the second biggest event on the NASCAR schedule, why was there not an open test session so that this problem could have been discovered weeks ago?
NASCAR says they want to clamp down on things like testing that cause teams to spend so much money but if races like this are going to be the result teams will not have to worry for long. There will not be any form of major stock car racing taking place because no one will want to watch it and the sport will die.
Also, NASCAR is so intent on mandating and controlling every part and piece that goes onto the cars that teams never have a chance to engineer something better. Shocks, springs, camber angles, wing angles and so much more are dictated before teams ever build their cars. If the set up devised by NASCAR is bad, it is bad for everybody and causes something like the AllState 400 to happen.
Goodyear has been criticized earlier this season, and now we see rightfully so. Indianapolis Motor Speedway has had tire related issues with NASCAR and a very famous incident with Formula 1 in the past. And, NASCAR has been a target of media, competitors and fans for some time now.
If these entities as well as the other companies and tracks involved with this sport do not sit up and take notice soon, they may find themselves wondering where all the fans went. And from the looks of some grandstands this year, we are quickly nearing that point.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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