The Frontstretch: Concern Shifts from Engines to Tires at Atlanta by Bryan Davis Keith -- Saturday March 7, 2009

Go to site navigation Go to article

Concern Shifts from Engines to Tires at Atlanta

Bryan Davis Keith · Saturday March 7, 2009


If you haven’t checked the Frontstretch Newsletter, you missed out on breaking news from Atlanta Motor Speedway involving Chase Miller, Chase Austin, and Bobby Hamilton’s former wife, Lori. Don’t keep missing out on the best place to receive NASCAR News and information; click here to start getting it FREE right into your email inbox! That’s right, we said FREE. How could you lose with that deal?

The start to the 2009 season has been marred with a rash of engine failures that has not been seen in some time, a trend that has become all but a consensus headline through the first three races.

But none of that seems to be phasing any race camp, or any driver for that matter, coming into this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In fact, a lack of concern happened to be the drivers’ consensus on Friday.

Said Kevin Harvick of the recent epidemic of engine failures, “It’s just the beginning of the year.”

“Everybody is just pushing the limits right now.”

Of course, many of the sport’s biggest teams are still figuring where to draw that line. The Earnhardt Childress camp saw both Aric Almirola and Jeff Burton suffer engine failures over the course of Speedweeks. Next, it was Hendrick’s turn, as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mark Martin both lost motors during the 500-miler at Fontana. And last week saw four of five Roush Fenway Racing teams reporting at least some trouble with their power plants, as did Kurt Busch in his Dodge entry.

Toyota went through the ringer at Vegas, too, with no less than five cars needing to start from the rear due to faulty camshafts. Yet all of those cars recovered to make it through the race itself, allowing Michael Waltrip to address the motor troubles his teams endured with confidence Friday. Perhaps more importantly, Waltrip seemed to have a finger on what was causing a lot of the issues in the Toyota camp.

“I’m impressed with their [TRD’s] determination [to provide better motors for their teams],” he said. “I think they’ve [TRD] sort of determined that maybe some of the viscosity in the motor oils were different, and it caused some wear that they hadn’t seen before. They upped the viscosity levels in the oil, and they made us run a little bit more oil — and that seemed to address it.”

A trip to Victory Lane in Vegas left Kyle Busch (right) less worried about engine failure and more worried about keeping his Goodyears on straight in gunning for a second straight win at Atlanta.

The Toyota camp isn’t alone in feeling a sense of security after Vegas. Many other drivers seemed to downplay the current engine dilemma, too.

“Mark Cronquist does such a good job at Joe Gibbs Racing that I don’t believe we’ll have engine failures,” said Kyle Busch. “That’s never in the back of your mind.” And Ryan Newman attributed the current upswing in failures to simply being “just the way things cycle.”

Where concern is shifting to yet again in Atlanta is to the tires that will be run this weekend. Expectations were high after Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya both provided rave reviews of Goodyear’s newest Eagle following a preseason tire test, but so far they do not seem to be living up to the hype.

While many drivers during qualifying found themselves tight due to the track cooling from a daylight practice to an evening pole session, there were others who found the tires to be little improved over the 2008 AMS rubber. Clint Bowyer found himself very loose coming off of Turn 4 during his run, reporting that he had no grip and was instead sliding all over the race track. Reed Sorenson also reported similar problems in his car, reporting a loose condition that was amplified because his car was bouncing through the turns. Sorenson described the Goodyears as being extremely inconsistent going over the bumps in the corners.

Qualifying was not the first time for this issue to come up amongst the drivers. Jeff Gordon was quick to label his experience in practice driving the new tire package as “white-knuckle” and proclaimed in his weekly press conference, “we’re going to have issues.” David Stremme, who did not participate in the March race at Atlanta last year that fueled the current tire controversy at the track, was surprised by how much of a handful his race was.

Said Stremme, “I got out and asked Kurt [Busch] and [Jamie] McMurray, he was right next to me, and I asked did these things drive this bad last year, and they were like — no.”

Kyle Busch was not complimentary of Goodyear’s tire package selection, either.

“I’m not sure why they changed the tire again,” he questioned angrily after stepping out of his car in practice. “I remember testing this tire when they were here, and I remember telling them the characteristics of it were all wrong.”

“But they brought it back anyway.”

Perhaps the most ominous prediction of what to expect from the tires this weekend came from Jamie McMurray after qualifying third on Friday night.

“You’re going to hear a lot of drivers bitching about handling.”

The Cup teams have Happy Hour practice tomorrow to shed a lot more light on what is to come on Sunday. Stay tuned to Frontstretch for live updates from the track!

Contact Bryan Davis Keith

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Bryan Davis Keith and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

03/07/2009 09:13 AM

(I promised myself I was done with NA$CRAP and posting things), but how many times must one talk about how poorly GOODYEAR is performing on not only the tires it supplies, but creating a TOTAL lack of confidence by the drivers on the skins they have on their cars?

So, I submit yet another rant about NA$CRAP, because they simply don’t give a dam*!

And to quote: “Expectations were high after Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya both provided rave reviews of Goodyear’s newest Eagle following a preseason tire test”. (MMMM, under what conditions?)

Now just how Stupid (capital S) are those comments, keeping in mind the NA$CRAP has the GAG ORDER on what drivers can and cannot say!

It is completely STUPID to even quote a driver today!

We will see what Sunday brings! But when drivers have ZERO confidence in the tires on their car, the “RACING” becomes diluted!

03/07/2009 03:44 PM

We just need to get used to the way NASCAR does business . No matter how crappy a product is , ( watered down Sunoco , Goodyears that don’t work at pit road speeds much less race speeds ) as long as the supplier keeps sending the checks to NASCAR on time , they will continue to be official …….. of NASCAR . We all know that there are far better race fuel brands , we all know there are far better race tire brands . But none of them will be allowed into NASCAR because they are not the official suppliers .
So the products don’t have to be good , they don’t have to work particularly well , they can be so poorly made as to affect the outcome of races . But as long as these second rate companies continue to buy their way into the sport , instead of being forced to go head to head against their competition , we’ll be stuck with inferior products and inferior racing . And of course the usual laughable excuses from the garage area , “ carburetor problems “ and “ cut down tires “ .

03/07/2009 06:01 PM

MMMMM, guess my points must have hit home, as I said, censorship at it’s finest! Must be taking lessons from King Brian!