Drivers blame Kansas track surface for issues
October 07, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- NASCAR and Goodyear officials will meet Tuesday to discuss, among other things, tire selection for this past weekend's Hollywood Casino 400.
The meeting wasn't scheduled in light of driver comments following the season's 30th Sprint Cup Series race.
"We meet with Goodyear every Tuesday," Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said following Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway.
"We'll download everything -- Goodyear's side of it as well as what team information we can give everyone. … We'll kind of get a better feel for it then."
Goodyear officials provided teams with a new tire combination for the 1.5-mile track, utilizing the same multi-zone technology that produced tires used last month at Atlanta. The Kansas package consisted of a more tractive compound on the left side to provide more grip while the right was a combination of a harder inner shoulder with the same compound used at Kansas earlier this year on the outside.
The combination was verified earlier this year during a mid-July test, and all teams were allowed to test here on Thursday before the weekend's regularly scheduled activities got underway.
Spins by Kyle and Kurt Busch on Saturday resulted in both drivers having to go to backup entries for Sunday's race. Five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson also spun during practice, as did points leader Matt Kenseth. Concerns were voiced.
But while Sunday's race saw a record number of caution flags (15), several drivers said the track's still-new surface was the culprit, not the tire.
"I think the issue is the pavement and the things they keep repaving these race tracks with that put Goodyear in a box," race-winner Kevin Harvick said.
"It's not Goodyear's fault; they have to make a tire that's not going to blow out. So when you're running an average of 187 or 185, whatever the average speed is, they have to make the tire durable."
Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon called the racing surfaces on newly paved tracks "too smooth."
"We don't want bumps," Gordon said. "I'm not talking about bumps. I'm talking about the abrasiveness of the race track. It doesn't dissipate heat, doesn't wear the tires … all it does is cause friction and heat and failures and then Goodyear has to build a very hard, durable tire."
The Kansas surface was repaved last year, between the facility's two Cup dates.
Gordon said he "applauded" Goodyear's efforts, saying the supplier is "doing the best they can."
"To me, it's really the surface," he said. "We're paving these race tracks with what we're paving new highways with. This is not a highway -- it's a race track and it's a race car and a racing tire."
Not everyone was as understanding. Kenseth called the conditions "the worst I've raced in in I don't know how long.
"This right side tire was obviously not the answer," he said after an 11th-place finish. "I'm sure Kevin (Harvick) is happy, but other than that, I think everybody kind of struggled with it."
Kenseth described the right side tire used previously as "fine" but said the addition of the left, with more grip, would have been the same combination that resulted in tire issues at Michigan.
"And they were worried about that," he said. "So they took grip away from the right side. Well, we should have just run what we ran last time, or else put the softer left and just leave the other right on.
"This right was just really unpredictable."
Kyle Busch, involved in a pair of separate incidents on Sunday, called the track "the worst race track I've driven on" and the tires "the worst tires I've ever driven on."
"Track position is everything. You can't do anything unless you're out front," he said.
It was, Harvick said, "like driving on a razor blade."
It was difficult and treacherous and the cars were a handful.
Temperatures that started out in the high 80s on Thursday had plummeted into the upper 50s by Sunday, adding to the concern.
"What you don't know," Darby said, "is if it was a typically 80-, 85-degree day, would it have been perfect? You don't know that."