Sunday, July 27, 2008

Allstate Pit Crew Competition 400

All I can say is..."I am TIRED! Tired of hearing about TIRES!" (And for the first time, my header picture allows me to not use any other image from anywhere else! How appropriate for the subject!)

Today's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard has been wildly flamed among the world of NASCAR fans who live on the internet. There were immediate concerns while we watched the tire cords springing into view yesterday during the final practice sessions. Little did we know that the issue was going to explode faster than a right rear tire on a diamond-cut track.

NASCAR did not notice a problem Friday during practice, as most of those cars were making 3 lap runs, in preparation for qualification runs. Saturday's post qual practices are when the problems first arrived, due to the longer runs being made by teams. Many teams curtailed the last practice, in fears that there would be an extreme shortage of tires for Sunday's race.

Early risers on Sunday discovered that Goodyear had sent out orders to bring in 800 right side tires originally designated for Pocono next week. NASCAR made contingency plans on how to use the extra tires, and buckled down for a long race.

Announcing that there would be a competition yellow at 10 laps, the early part of the race saw several tire issues. The first caution was on lap one, and was caused by Michael Waltrip getting loose, and was probably NOT a product of the tires. The next caution at Lap 14 was also from a loose car, but there may be more of a tire issue on this one. As the cars continued through the race, it became apparant that the first signal that a tire was going south was a loose feeling. Many drivers did not react fast enough to get into the pits. Matt Kenseth had the most dramatic explosive tire rupture, with the tire even blowing into the cockpit, and dislodging the right side window.

After that, the race was made up of Competition Yellows every ten to 12 laps. Many drivers started taking care of their tires, with some improvement in cording. My driver, David Gilliland, observed that the restarts were where the cars were burning up the right front, but that the right rear was also impacted from a loose car. Keeping the car tightened up, and playing it safe on the restart helped him finish in 20th. Not flashy, but certainly safe and indeed a good finish under the circumstances. Jimmie Johnson ran a race to finish, and had flawless pit strategy coming from Chad Knause and his pit crew.

The internet fan-dom pundits are loudly blaming NASCAR and Goodyear, with outraged opinions that this was the worst race in the history of the sport. I am totally unable to disagree, and yet, I can see that there were really not a lot of options left.

The most dramatic suggestion of the day was that the race should never have been run. The fall-out of canceling the race would have been something that would deal such a strong blow to the sport that there would be no recovery.

It is hopeful that NASCAR and Goodyear learn from this, and are better prepared next year for the trip to Indy. Surely the open testing next year will help bring better knowledge for NASCAR, Goodyear, and for the teams. At least, today, the pit crews all had extra practice!

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