The Frontstretch: Behind the Wall: NASCAR's Flat Tires by Brandon Daun -- Tuesday August 9, 2005

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Behind the Wall: NASCAR's Flat Tires

Brandon Daun · Tuesday August 9, 2005


Fans that go to the racetrack or tune into the race broadcast do so knowing that the afternoon will be full of surprises.  Aspects of the sport such as pit strategy, multi-car accidents, and mechanical failures guarantee that the race will be one of interest and intrigue.  

Sadly, though, this year one aspect of the sport which used to be caused by occasional bad luck has now become a weekly regular on the circuit...the dreaded "flat tire." No matter what track NASCAR stops at, Goodyear tires have continued to go flat and plague drivers throughout any Nextel Cup event.  At the Pocono race in June, there were a total of 21 left front tires that went flat. Tire troubles were again present at Chicagoland a few races later, and last weekend at Indianapolis, eight drivers had their days ruined again by the simple cause of a tire going down.

While no answer has been given as to why tires were failing at the Brickyard, Goodyear has claimed that racetrack conditions and car setups were reasons for tire failures at previous venues. Goodyear has claimed that at Pocono, drivers that experienced flat tires were running with air pressure too low, or a suspension that placed pressure onto the tires.  But isn’t NASCAR racing all about getting the maximum performance out of the cars?  Teams will tweak engines and tinker with gears and suspension so that their car will give superior performance.  If a team cannot use a car setup because the tires will not work with it, then it seems almost pointless to even work on a car.  If every team ran the same suspension setup and tire pressures that were recommended by the tire provider, it would change the sport entirely. Goodyear should take into consideration that teams are going to alter their cars to get the best possible performance. With the new rules and procedures, teams need to be able to alter their suspension setups and air pressure, while remaining confident their tires are going to last. 

If Goodyear isn't blaming the car setups, they're claiming tires are failing because of track conditions.  Goodyear has claimed that heat was responsible for the tire failures at Chicagoland, and that the rumble strips at Pocono were cutting down tires.  But it should be common knowledge that during NASCAR races the track temperature is going to rise.  And with the SAFER barriers in the turns and the competitive nature of Nextel Cup racing, drivers almost have no choice but to race near the rumble strips when racing through the turns.  In the future, track and weather conditions need to be taken into consideration so that tires can last longer and drivers will be safer. 

Plain and simple, instead of passing the blame around Goodyear needs to take a course of action to rectify the situation with their tires.  Perhaps Goodyear can perform testing sessions with multiple setups and several NASCAR team members so that tire problems will become less frequent.  The company simply needs to work towards a goal of making their tires flexible enough again so that teams can run multiple setups and different camber settings and have little difficulty in doing so. Of course, there is never going to be a time when tire troubles will be a thing of the past.  Conditions such as flat spots and fender rubs will always be present in the sport in some shape or form.  But while these conditions seem inevitable in any NASCAR race, it doesn’t seem too unreasonable to race with a tire that can be used on different setups. 

For the time being, however, fans should get used to seeing flat tires and shredded sheet metal at every race.  It will take a lot of time and money before a tire can be used on any setup at any track again, but it is a course of action that needs to be taken to make drivers safer on the track. 

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08/10/2005 07:15 PM
I feel like you are putting the blame for tire troubles caused by setups and NASCAR on Goodyear. I seem to recall the drivers and NASCAR requested softer compounds in 2005. This was to help the driver control the car as a result of chopping the spoiler height. As you know the softer the compound, the better the traction,the negative side of this is; more heat is generated. Heat kills tires. All types of tires. Take a trip to Texas in the summer and see what 100 degree days do to tires.

Crew chiefs are determined to go fast, but to do so, you have to have low air pressure and air is what holds up the car. Radial tires are constructed with flexible sidewalls in contrast to the stiff sidewalls of the bias ply tires used in years passed. Failure to support the load with the proper air pressure causes excessive sidewall flexing, creating heat.

Heat changes the tire. Case in point: Scuffs or after a caution, the handling of a car may change. Both as a result of heat.

A tire is an engineering assignment. It requires compromise to achieve all of the goals needed to provide a safe tire that will withstand the speed,temperature, traction and loads placed on them under race conditions.
Goodyear once built a tire that never needed to be changed in a race, but this was before NASCAR started chopping the spoiler height and the aero package wasn’t the major factor it is now.