Drivers Say Indy Tires Fixed, Fans To Be Spared Repeat Disaster
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
The word Tuesday from Sprint Cup drivers taking part in the latest tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was mission accomplished. All agreed that they now have a tire from Goodyear which will allow them to avoid the type of race-day embarrassment the sport suffered a year ago in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
“I will guarantee it,” four-time series champion Jeff Gordon said Tuesday when asked if fans will see a good race this year at Indy. “I’m 100 percent confident. I ran this tire as hard as I possibly could, put numerous laps on them. It’s a dead issue.”
In the hours after last year’s race, which is one of the biggest and most important on the Cup schedule, the issue was lively and not lively in a good sort of way.
During the race, the tires were wearing to their cords after about 10 laps. The tires were not wearing as much as they were turning to powder. The short runs which ensued produced a race which had competitors and fans screaming for action.
“Last year was something that none of us wanted to see what happened last year, and I think that it was determined I think probably before that race was over that it’s not going to happen again,” Gordon said.
Goodyear took the biggest beating after the 2008 debacle.
Greg Stucker, director of race tire sales for Goodyear, said that in recent months, his company has conducted numerous tests at the 2.5-mile Indy oval. Over 30 drivers have been involved in those tests.
Stucker said after Tuesday’s test, all the testing has paid off.
“I think we owe it to these guys (drivers) to make sure we’ve got something that’s very raceable to put on a good show,” Stucker said. “I just want everybody to know that we’re very confident that we’ve done that and we’re looking very forward to the race in about a month and a half.”
Drivers on hand said they agreed.
Kurt Busch said, “I feel confident that Goodyear made dramatic improvement.”
Kasey Kahne said he different between last year’s tires and those tested Tuesday was “night and day different.”
Gordon said, “This is going to be a race here it might come down to fuel mileage, it might come down to a lot of different factors, fastest car, not the fastest car, track position, a double fire restart with ten to go, but it’s not going to come down to a 10-lap lap shootout on whose tires can last.”
Up until Tuesday, there was considerable concern that the problem would not be solved by the time the series showed up at the Brickyard in July. Until the last two tests, the tires continued to prove unsatisfactory.
“Two weeks ago,” Kahne said, “we didn’t have a tire that we could race.”
In talking about the tests, Stucker said. “We were here seven times before the end of 2008. We ran a lot of different compounds just to try to understand how different formulations reacted with the racetrack. I also mentioned some of the testing that has been developed, and we’re utilizing that to kind of measure that debris and formulate what our approach was going to be to coming up with a recommendation. “So we kind of went down that road in early spring before the 500, and these last two tests really were to finalize recommendations two weeks ago and come here and confirm it with multiple cars this time. Really the last two tests we’ve really just been doing pretty nothing but running the race tire. That’s all we did yesterday and today.”
Leading Gordon to reiterate his contention that this year’s Brickyard will not turn into a tire-based disaster.
“I told Stu Grant (of Goodyear) earlier, they’ve actually made it too good, it’s that good,” Gordon said. “And I’m 100 percent confident, and I can promise all the fans out there that if they want to come to the Brickyard and see a great race and be confident that the tires are not going to be an issue, you can trust me. I hope that’s enough for them. But they’ve got it resolved for sure.”
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org