Tire troubles continue to plague Cup Series teams
April 26, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
RICHMOND, Va. -- Tire issues during Saturday's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway were quite literally a hot button issue as a handful of right front tires caught fire during the race.
While it was frustrating and race-ending for some of the teams, in driver Reed Sorenson's case, rubber from his tire started coming off and got into the oil and brake lines causing a fire and his entire Chevrolet to engluf in smoke and flames. He had to be pulled from his cockpit on pit road by a crewman.
Even drivers who did not have issues Saturday night, such as third place finisher Kyle Busch, suggested that Goodyear needed to work on the tire some more, specifically with the newly developed duel tread tire used at Richmond and earlier this month at Texas Motor Speedway.
"It was really tough for all of us to keep the tires under our cars and for putting a harder compound on the outside edge having it cord and come apart," Busch said. "Actually it's supposed to be more durable; I think it was just the not the right way to go."
Stu Grant, Goodyear's General Manager of Global Race Tires, acknowledged the recurring issue with the right front tires Saturday night.
"Some cars are perfectly fine, but we are seeing a number of cars with wear issues in the right front," Grant said.
"Back when we tested [at Richmond] in October we were testing two things. One, the heat and durability and the second thing is wear. It looked like we were effective in being able to reduce the heat and improve the durability with the construction change we made.
"But it looks like we've got some work to do on the wear because I don't think we made any improvement on the wear with this particular package.
"It looks like the operating window between acceptable wear on the right front and unacceptable wear is pretty small. You get some guys that are just fine, just fine, just fine, and then all of a sudden they'll develop an issue.”
The camber setting -- the way the wheels are angled -- by a team may have also played a role in the tire troubles Saturday.
"It plays into certainly because all the issues are the inside shoulder of the right front that they are leaning on," Grant said. "You could straighten that up and improve that for sure."
But, he said, he expected the company would further test a new tire to use when NASCAR returns to the Richmond three-quarter miler in September for the regular season finale that sets the Chase for the Sprint Cup field.
"I think it's pretty likely we'll be back to Richmond and test before September," Grant said. "Obviously when we have a change like that we have a lot of discussion with the teams and NASCAR to make sure we make the right call. With it being the last race before the Chase -- they are all important -- but that's an important one and we need to all be on the same page if we're going to schedule a test and make a change for the Fall race.”
Jeff Gordon was runner-up Saturday and at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this month using the duel tread tires, but still said he wasn't necessarily a "fan” of the tire.
"While I don't like the way it drives, I also think we're very competitive with it, so I'm not going to say a whole lot," Gordon said. "I will just second what Kyle (Busch) said is that I think the idea behind this is to make it more durable and that does not seem to be the case. So I think there definitely needs to be a little bit more research to go into it to try to perfect it."
NASCAR Vice President for Competition Robin Pemberton said after the race he was absolutely confident that Goodyear would handle the situation.
"The tire was adjusted properly on many cars and some of them took it overboard," Pemberton acknowledged. "But Goodyear being a good partner, if it's something we need to re-do before we get back here in the fall, I'm sure Goodyear is more than happy to test and develop another tire for us."