Frontstretch Staff · Monday October 7, 2013
Did you miss an event during this busy week in racing? How about a late-night press release, an important sponsorship rumor, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch going forward for the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed, no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!
Sprint Cup: Evaluating Tire Tread 2.0 Kansas Speedway served as a second helping of sorts on Sunday. After a successful debut of their new “Tread Zone” tire at Atlanta, Goodyear hoped this intermediate would provide yet another example of how their new compound could improve the quality of racing on “cookie-cutter” tracks.
Instead, moving forward this evaluation provided mixed reviews. It seemed teams’ setups, along with the speed of the track and its newer pavement made it harder for four tires to be a requirement on every stop. Just check out Kevin Harvick; in capturing the victory, he did it on left-sides that were 110 laps old. Several teams had minimal speed dropoff, a subtle reminder to the “rock hard” compounds that have plagued races at Michigan and Charlotte in the past.
At the same time, a true judgment was difficult based on the minimal number of green-flag runs. The race had two cautions in its first 110 laps, followed by thirteen! (note a type-o) in the final 157. The race, in the end became a crew chief battle of strategy, a battle of who could spin the roulette wheel and land on the front row for just the right restart. With so little time in between debris, spinouts, and other Kansas madness how could the tires even attempt to wear? It did seem, over the course of long runs Jimmie Johnson did have a setup capable of passing at will with these tires — one year ago, he would have restarted midpack, late in the event and stayed there instead of climbing up to fifth. But even the No. 48 seemed to even out, during the race’s final stint as when you changed tires appeared to give no advantage throughout a top 10 marked by dead even lap times down the stretch.
The bottom line is Goodyear is putting forth a valiant effort to improve the quality of racing; teams and fans would take this compound over the previous version. But if NASCAR’s going to rid itself of its biggest enemy — clean air and the inability to pass up front — a test next Monday on eliminating the aero push may prove far more valuable than these new sets of tires that can only do so much to fix deeper problems. Tom Bowles
IndyCar: Safety Issues Rear Their Ugly Head In Houston INDYCAR just can’t catch a break. After a series of compelling races and the dawn of a title fight that looks to go down to the wire, the series received yet another black eye on Sunday from a foe that the series is all too familiar with: safety issues.
The problems began back in free practice sessions on Friday. Multiple drivers complained that the Houston circuit, which featured a portion of track in which cars were getting airborne, was not safe. There were also some quiet concerns that parts of the track were too treacherous in terms of configuration, especially the Turn 5 complex that is a blind, flat-out style corner. INDYCAR pressed on with the weekend and allayed the concerns as best they could, but unfortunately there were still problems. Big ones.
Dario Franchitti went sailing into the catchfences in the very Turn 5 complex that many of the sport’s on-lookers were concerned about. Not only was Franchitti injured, 14 spectators were injured to boot. One can say that INDYCAR got away with what could have been an even bigger disaster on Sunday, but the sport has to learn from this regardless. INDYCAR needs to start taking a harder look at these tracks BEFORE the series even reaches the actual race weekend. Configuration changes are easy to make months in advance of an event, they are not easy to make the day before an event.
Nonetheless, the sport and everyone involved is blessed that there weren’t more serious injuries on the last lap of Sunday’s race, and the hope is that they learned something about safety at the end of the day. Matt Stallknecht
Nationwide: Kyle’s Saturday Sideshow If you were wondering what Kyle Busch did to deserve his rough fate during Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Kansas, you need not look further than the day before, during the track’s Nationwide Series event.
Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 saw Busch move from last place to nearly the lead. However, he didn’t make any friends along the way, culminating in a run-in with Brad Keselowski while the pair battled for second behind Matt Kenseth with 11 laps to go. Busch’s No. 54 clipped the left rear of Keselowski’s No. 22, sending him spinning down the track, up it and into the outside wall on the frontstretch.
Afterward, Keselowski was less than pleased with Busch, vowing revenge. Busch, meanwhile, shrugged off the contact, accepting blame but refusing to call it intentional, despite the two teams’ close battle for the series owners’ championship. Busch himself professed to take the moral high road, noting that Keselowski had spun him in the past with, he said, no repercussions.
Karma may or may not exist. Busch’s troubles Sunday were probably self-inflicted, with no bearing on what happened the day before.
But if you believe it is a thing, Sunday’s race — during which Busch fell all the way to fifth in points and lost scent of the Cup points lead — was one of the better examples of it this season. Kevin Rutherford
*Short Tracks: * Mike Neff
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