Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What a difference in the racing between the Brickyard 400 and the Pocono 500 using the same Goodyear tires.

Since the Friday before the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard (or Brickyard 400), the talk around NASCAR has been mainly focused on tires, the tire wear seems to be a problem. Let’s be honest, so far in the 2008 NASCAR Cup Series season, the subject has been mainly focused on the tires vs. NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow, so the tire issues were nothing new to hear, however the powder was.

So far this season, NASCAR fans have seen mixed results in the racing from COT, on one hand you saw good racing at Phoenix race, Talladega, the Daytona 500, Darlington, the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte (despite the blowing right fronts), Bristol, and even the Richmond race in general, however on the flip-side, the racing at Atlanta, Texas, California, the Sprint Showdown and more were terrible and mostly due to the tires. So when you look at the days leading up to the Brickyard 400 with practice and qualifying, NASCAR, the drivers, teams, owners and the fans have seen tire problems, but I wonder, how extreme see to extreme for NASCAR to say stop?

Looking at the Brickyard 400: One of the biggest races I look forward to all season in the Cup Series besides the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Darlington and the night race in August at Bristol is the Brickyard 400, the yard of brickyards, the racetrack in which the famous Indianapolis 500 is run every year and the Brickyard 400 is huge every year.

However, last weekend’s running of the Brickyard 400 was simply a nightmare, sure NASCAR fans got to see some racing including the last 7 laps of the race for the victory, but it was 10-12 lap heat races and that wasn’t what anyone expected, not NASCAR, Goodyear or the fans and I was surprised to see that NASCAR didn’t even try dragging tires around the speedway or I wonder if the teams should have been given the Pocono tires to run on, of course that might not have helped, considering I heard that the Pocono tire and the Indy tire are the same. I wonder if the sideways rearend had a hand in the tire wear too?

Following the race, on Tuesday, I read the NASCAR Teleconference with Robin Pemberton, where he started with by saying how sorry they were, nice, but I wasn’t looking for an apology, I wanted to know what NASCAR, Goodyear and Indianapolis Motor Speedway plan on doing about this tire issue so this does not happen again. It was good to hear that NASCAR this:

Q. I wanted to ask there has been some talk about Goodyear possibly making a radical change to the wider tire. So is that possible without changing the car and the body of the car? I mean having a much larger tire made forcing a change in the car?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: “ I'm going to answer that the best I can, your phone was breaking up. We had a bad connection there. We're working with Goodyear. As far as evaluating a wider tire, a tire that is a larger circumference that allows it to have a larger volume of air in there and helps its durability. I think part of your question was about the tire width and size versus the body. I think I got that out of it. If we come to a place that Goodyear needs to be to help the performance help the tires and help the feel as far as the body goes, and the sheet metal, those type of things can be changed in a matter of days or weeks or months with proper planning. We're looking at some different things with Goodyear. You know, we'll follow their lead on what they need to help the performance and durability of the tires.”

The way I look at this is, if you want to put blame out there or even more, what should each be doing to following the Brickyard 400 heat races, I believe blame should be shared by NASCAR, Goodyear and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR - they should have done more research on this car before it hit the track, they changed mostly everything on this car, but not the tires.

That’s like going from a four-door sedan to a Jeep Liberty and using the same tire, that’s not going to work, you need a new wheel and tire to accept the additional load. Tires are a big part of the car, they make the contact with the road or track, for example, our Jeep Liberty had skinny tires from the factory on it, yes they worked, but not all that well, so we upgraded to a taller and more wider tire, what a difference just looking at them, results, they corner, handle and drive much better including in the rain, the tires cost more, but worth it.

I heard one person say adjusting the front splitter, the suspension seems to be an issue, what about a smaller rear wing, and BTW, that’s safety issue too. I’m not an expert, but listen to the driver’s, this car is not working in its current form, do the testing and then come back and make changes now.

Goodyear - You have a problem, the racing tire is a hit or miss, expand the testing with more teams, tell NASCAR you need to increase not only the tire size, but the wheel size, work with on it. Personally, I would like to see more than one tire at each track, a soft compound and a hard compound, yeah I know, it’s a long shot.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway - First I didn’t like comment made by Tony George, "The problem is solely theirs, and by that I mean it's theirs to figure out. It's not going to come with anything we do to the track. Figuring it out will only come with getting the car and tire combination right, and that requires actually spending the time and effort to do something about it. The track won't change next year, so if they want to come back, they better figure it out because I don't think the fans want to come back and see that."

One race fan told me that Tony George is at fault too, my first reaction was what? He said along with not accepting NASCAR apology, he said: “Indianapolis Motor Speedway diamond cut the racetrack, causing the tires not only to wear quickly but turn to a powder. Diamond cutting didn't work at Charlotte and it really didn't work at Indy. I blame the officials at Indy for making this race so bad, turning 400 miles into 10 lap heat races. I'll go to the local short tracks for heat races, not Indy. Re-do the track surface, making it smooth and raceable. Also, put a companion race, like ARCA or Indy Lights, at the speedway on Saturday.” He went on to say “Take some responsibility Tony George. I think NASCAR should pull the plug on Indianapolis if this problem is not fixed next year.” – From 8racingfan.com

What a statement, does he have a point? In my opinion, yeah, he does, before passing judgement though, read his entire post, read DW latest column on what he learned from Indy, and also read the Pocono part of this piece. All I have to say is NASCAR now knows they has a problem, the question now is, what are they going to do to fix it and when?

What about the Pocono 500: Like the title says “What a difference in the racing between the Brickyard 400 and the Pocono 500, using the same Goodyear tires”, last weekend’s Pocono race was a good one to watch despite the short rain delay in the middle of the rain, but once the racetrack was dry, the racing was still good and much better than the Pocono race 5 or so weeks ago.

The patch finally equaled out somewhat in turn 3 (or turn 6 if that’s the way you count it), the racing was much better considering what we all watched last weekend at Indy and yet the way I understand it, they ran this race on the same tire or basically the same tire, if that’s the case, maybe the diamond-cutting is one of the problems.

In the end, this race ended on fuel millage and for some, no dice, but for the winner Carl Edwards, this victory gives him 10 more bonus points in the chase and puts him as a serious contender, 2nd place Tony Stewart, what a rebound there, he gets his best finish of the year, hard to believe that stat, they are due for a victory, for 3rd place Jimmie Johnson, they have arrived, with a victory last weekend at the Brickyard which was overshadowed by the 10 lap tires and this finish, he moves up to 4th in points, only -200 points out and Kevin Harvick gets a much needed 4th place finish and he and his teammate Clint Bowyer are fighting to get into the chase . On the flip-side, Matt Kenseth is now 13th.

Overall, fans saw a good Pocono 500 race, but a terrible Brickyard 400 that hopefully will result in COT changes by NASCAR and a better, stronger tire by Goodyear.

- Racedriven