Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday April 6, 2006
After the two disgraces that were called “races” at Lowe’s Motor Speedway last year, NASCAR and Goodyear decided that perhaps something different should be done to address the issue of tire wear. Not that they were in much of a hurry, mind you, seeing as how the whole track was going to be newly repaved for 2006.
If you care to remember, a new NASCAR record for race cautions was set last May at the Coca-Cola 600 with a whopping 22 yellow flags, mostly for blown tires. The longest green flag run in that race was 46 laps, with the second longest being just 34. It couldn’t have been any worse…until October!
In the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe’s, the longest green flag run was 29 laps, with an event record 15 cautions, again mostly for blown tires. It was so bad that NASCAR even considered calling the race early in the interest of safety.
As I pointed out after the race at the time, the only thing that made the October race better than the May race was that it was 100 miles shorter. Both races were truly NASCAR’s biggest disgraces in recent memory.
Well, after taking the whole offseason to think, and after the track had been repaved, last week Goodyear brought out the fruits of a years worth of head scratching and saying “hmmm” for testing on the newly resurfaced track. The result…tire wear that was more severe than last year. Whoops! Well, what do we do now?
“They turned the factory upside down to answer the call of duty,’’ said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s Vice President of competition, about the folks at Goodyear. "They came back and designed a tire that was pretty tough. The drivers were happy. The speeds were still pretty good.’’
Amazing what can be done when you turn a factory upside down! Perhaps the reason they had to turn the factory upside down is because the folks at Goodyear, when it comes to racing tires, have had their head up their "¦well, you get the point. Just one week later, the reports are glowing.
“Goodyear officials were a lot more optimistic after [Tuesday’s] test than last week,’’ said Senior Vice President of events, Jerry Gappens. “They brought a completely new tire and did not encounter the challenges they had last week with the higher speeds, excessive wear, and higher tire temperature.’’
This new tire is made of a newly discovered, harder compound that Pemberton says “seems to wear better on the higher-than-normal speeds that are the result of the new surface.”
Fricking Eureka! You can almost see the red spots on the Goodyear engineers heads where they slapped themselves! A harder compound! Who’d have thunk it!
The new tire actually slowed the lap times of test invitees Dale Jarrett and Kevin Harvick by nearly one second, or the equivalent of six miles per hour. Meanwhile, NASCAR officials remain "guardedly optimistic" of the new tire, but they do have contingency plans should full-fledged team testing in May prove there are still problems.
One of those plans is to reportedly use smaller, 14 gallon fuel cells, as are used at Daytona and Talladega. That would cut the window between fuel stops to about 40 laps, instead of 60 to 65, allowing the teams to check and or change the tires sooner. Sounds good in NASCAR’s mind, I’m sure. They are however, forgetting one bit of important history"¦the "long" green flag run of 29 laps last October!
Leave it to NASCAR to come up with a 40 lap solution to a 30 lap problem!
Stay off the wall (harder is better!),
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