Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Goodyear examines Pocono tire woes
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Goodyear officials are scheduled to talk this week with NASCAR officials about the tire problems in Sunday's race at Pocono Raceway. Several teams had flat left front tires during the race.
Ricky Rudd said he lost five tires. Kurt Busch blew a left front. Ryan Newman crashed after his left front blew late in the race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost two tires. NASCAR officials met with Goodyear officials after the race.
"I've been at it a long time and never seen anything like that,'' Rudd said after the race.
Greg Stucker, director of race tire sales and marketing for Goodyear, says a combination of issues created the problems. He cited teams not running recommended air pressure, excessive camber (the amount a tire is tilted), and the rumble strips in turn 2.
Stucker said Tuesday morning that Goodyear was examining what went wrong and if it needed to build a new tire for the Pocono race July 24. He said a decision would be made soon.
"Our biggest concern is that the second Pocono race is not very far away,'' Stucker said. "The last thing we want to do is overreact to something. We certainly had a serious situation, but we don't want to do something that is going to make the situation worse. So, we're trying to get as much information as possible."
The tire used at Pocono on Sunday was new to the track. Stucker said the tire had a stiffer sidewall and a different compound. The tire also is scheduled to be run again at Bristol in August.
Terry Labonte will drive for Jason Leffler at Infineon Raceway next weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Tuesday.
Leffler's team is outside the top 35 in car owner points and must qualify to make the race. Labonte, as a past champion, can make the race on a provisional reserved for a former champion. So, putting Labonte in the car all but assures the team it will compete in that race.
"Jason understands that our support of him continues, as he'll race this weekend at Michigan and return to the number 11 at Daytona,'' said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, in a statement issued by the team.
Roush Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have combined to win 17 of the last 20 races, dating back to last season. The success shouldn't be a total surprise since those teams are among the sport's best and have combined to win three of the last four championships. The only races they haven't won during that stretch were Phoenix in 2004 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), Bristol this season (Kevin Harvick) and Richmond this season (Kasey Kahne).
Michael Waltrip is 15th in the points, passing teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is 16th, after last weekend's race at Pocono. This is the first time Waltrip has led Earnhardt in the points since March 2003 when Waltrip was fourth and Earnhardt was fifth in points after the Bristol spring race.
Crew chief Chad Knaus says that he plans to attend a road-racing driving school with points leader Jimmie Johnson before next weekend's race at Infineon Raceway to help improve communication between the two for a road race. They've done it before.
"So, when we go to (Infineon) and Watkins Glen we can perform a little bit better,'' Knaus said.
Allison Duncan became the first driver in the NASCAR-supported driver diversity program to win a feature race. She won the 30-lap Late Model race Saturday at Stockton 99 Speedway in Stockton, Calif.
Duncan drives for Richard Childress Racing and Bill McAnally Racing. She has one win and four runner-up finishes in eight starts, gaining a tie for the track points lead. Also, Erin Crocker, a female racer, will attempt to make the ARCA race this weekend at Michigan for Evernham Motorsports. She's a part of Evernham's driver development program.
Mark Martin says he plans to run the season finales in Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck series at Homestead in November. Martin plans to move to the Truck series after this season, pending sponsorship. ... The Charlotte Observer reports that the Nextel Cup series will be called the Sprint Cup Series next year. Sprint and Nextel are merging and the new company's name will be Sprint. An announcement could come next month. ... Hermie Sadler will be a part of FX's broadcast crew for Saturday night's Busch series race at Kentucky.