NASCAR, Goodyear address Texas tire concerns
April 04, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
FORT WORTH -- Even before the first lap had been turned on them, tires were a hot-topic issue at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday.
Several NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and teams proactively expressed concern about tire wear and durability for the Duck Commander 500 race weekend on the super-fast 1.5-mile Texas high banks. Some even lobbied NASCAR to step in and establish left-side tire pressure requirements to help prevent a situation of multiple left-side failures similar to what happened at Auto Club Speedway two weeks ago.
But Goodyear and NASCAR said Friday, they have the utmost confidence in the product this weekend and reiterated that NASCAR will not mandate minimum tire pressures.
It comes down to team’s trying to make the best competition decisions.
"Long-term, they would rather be in charge of their own destiny, I think," NASCAR Vice President for Competition Robin Pemberton said Friday.
Goodyear’s Director of Race Tire Sales Greg Stucker agreed, suggesting the tire pressure recommendations the company gives eachweek should be heeded more closely.
"We feel very good about our recommendation here," Stucker said. "Historically Texas has not been a race track where we have a lot of left side problems. We addressed the right side because it is a high speed race track and that’s what gets stressed tremendously here. That’s why we came with the Zone Tread tire, because it was a good solution to that.
"Really, I think on the heels of some of the issues we saw at Fontana, people are asking the question, ‘Is there a possibility we could see the same thing?’ There’s always that possibility. People are always pushing the envelope, always trying to stress all parts of the race car. Weunderstand that and support that.
"That’s what makes racing great, right?"
That depends on whom you’re talking to. And it varies greatly in the Sprint Cup garage.
"I think it’s been more exciting, the racing we’ve had with the rules being loosened up this year, so why do we need to add more rules to tighten it back up again so I’m against [NASCAR mandating tire pressures],” said California winner Kyle Busch. “I think it was an exciting race in California. There were people who abused the left side air pressure and you saw them take off and have way more speed than others. But guys myself that didn’t abuse that left side air pressure were able to still salvage on and didn’t have problems with tires whatsoever and ultimately we won the race."
In fact none of Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates had tire problems and they chalked that up to being more conservative with their left side tires. Other teams were running much lower air pressure in the left tires in hopes of gaining a speed advantage.
"We’re concerned this weekend for sure for when we get out there," said Penske Racing driver Joey Logano, whose team suffered five blown tires during California practices.
"This new package, with the added down force and added load on these cars – we’re going faster – it puts a little more strain on these tires and this is one of those race tracks that if you run on that white line you’re catching some of that apron and we really think that’s what was blowing the tires out.
"I think everybody was being pretty aggressive there," Logano conceded. “We were where we wanted to be because the advantage on the long haul was there, so we’re gonna be aggressive there. In the race, I think everyone came up a littlebit, everyone was trying to tune things down and our car, unfortunately, broke a gear but we didn’t have an issue in the race, whereas in practice we couldn’t run a 15-lap run.
"We’ll see how this practice goes here in a few hours and see what it looks like. There are different ways we can dial it back, whether it’s behind the wheel or in the garage here when we’re setting them up."
Owner-driver Tony Stewart said that although he has every confidence in what Goodyear has supplied for the weekend. However, he would be in favor of having NASCAR mandate tire recommendations.
"I think if it’s an issue of minimum pressures, Goodyear has always regulated that to certain degree,” Stewart said. “But if it keeps it from having failures and lets us race and worry about what we’re doing on the track, instead of a guessing game on whether we’re going to make it because the pressures are running too low, I’d rather them put a regulation on it."
While it is a mixed bag of expectations, Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he for one, is among those not overly concerned with the tire situation. And in fact, he doesn’t expect his team to change its tire strategy.
"I want to be as aggressive as we can because there’s speed in that,” Earnhardt said. “We’ll pay attention to that and I don’t think we’ll have any problem this weekend. “The bumps on the back straightaway were a big part of the problem at California and I don’t think we’ll have any issues here.
"We’ll go out there in practice and pay really close attention to what we’re seeing and be as aggressive as we can be in producing speed. I think the pace will slow down as the tires fall off here and we won’t really have a tire issue. I don’t think there’s anything to be concerned with personally."
Busch takes it further cautioning against over-reacting and eliminating strategic variables.
"I think you need more tortoise and the hare type stories in racing," Busch said.
"That’s where the excitement is going to come from. It’s not everyone always being the same speed all the time, running around in a train. It’s going to come from guys that are faster at different opportunities."