By admin | July 21, 2009
By Richard Allen
Last yearâ€™s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a disaster of monumental proportions. It may well have been the worst race NASCAR has ever staged.
The problem was the tires, or rather, the combination of the tires and the track. Goodyear brought a compound of tire that produced very inconsistent wear patterns. Thus, the track did not â€˜rubber inâ€™, or build up a rubber coating in the racing groove that helps reduce wear and allows for more tire durability.
The track contributed to the mess as well. Speedway officials had put the track through a grinding process which helped tear the tires apart before the wearing process could create the â€˜rubbering inâ€™ necessary for proper tire wear.
Also keep in mind that this track was designed for racing at about half the speed cars currently achieve on the 2.5 mile rectangle. The high speed, the grinding and the tire compound made for a bad day for everyone as NASCAR officials were forced to throw â€˜competition cautionsâ€™ every 10-12 laps. Even with that, cars crashed frequently as tires blew out. The Brickyard 400 turned into a survival test rather than a race.
Testing held so far this year has shown that the situation has improved. After initial reports of little progress being made, drivers and Goodyear officials have recently seemed more upbeat. NASCAR had better hope so.
2009 is proving to be one of the worst in the sportâ€™s history as far as negative publicity is concerned. Another tire debacle would be a nightmare.
Jeremy Mayfieldâ€™s drug issues, the Carl Long penalty, lowered television ratings, a drop off in attendance and a lack of competition on the track have been among the biggest stories of the season so far. More negativity would not be welcome in NASCARâ€™s Daytona Beach corporate offices.
Many of the problemâ€™s NASCAR is experience have been self-inflicted. But there have also been troubles outside the control of the sanctioning body which have brought about bad publicity.
This race is considered one of the premier events on the schedule because of the historic nature of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The two biggest races held so far, the Daytona 500 and the Coca-Cola 600, have been shortened by rain. Another rain shortened race would create more disappointment and once again give people something to talk about other than the events to take place on the track.
There is a lot on the line for NASCAR this weekend. Some of the things that could go wrong are completely outside the control of anyone, and some are not.
If ever the folks who run this sport have hoped for a good, competitive and trouble free race, they had better hope for one this Sunday. Anything less may well be more than the NASCAR spin machine can handle.
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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