Keselowski expects more Fontana-like tire issues during season

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Tire problems were one of the biggest stories to emerge in yesterday’s Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, which saw multiple drivers suffer failures.

NASCAR defended the work of manufacturer Goodyear, largely putting the failures down to aggressive set-ups and air pressures from the teams. Some of the drivers, however, still pinned the blame on Goodyear.

One of them was Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, who suffered a failure with a handful of laps to go and finished 26th, causing him to lose the Sprint Cup points lead.

Keselowski also had several tire failures during Saturday’s practice sessions on the two-mile oval going into the race, and he said that caused the No. 2 team to go more conservative on the air pressures for the race.

Still, he became one of many drivers to have tire troubles.

“If air pressure was the issue then it is a pretty simple fix, you just enforce a minimum rule,” Keselowski argued in post-race. “If air pressure was the issue we would have blown this many tires last year because it is all the same air pressure settings as last year. If anything we were more conservative after the issues yesterday.

“I am not going to say it wasn’t a factor but at the end of the day you can’t add 500-600 pounds of downforce to a race car along with a track that has bumps like you are on a freeway in Michigan. The tires just aren’t made for it. There is not enough margin in the cars and tires to do that and that is what we saw today.”

Keselowski also indicated that with the Gen-6 cars achieving higher speeds and having more downforce than last year thanks to the new aero package, more tire issues such as the ones seen at Fontana may emerge later on.

“This tire didn’t have any margin,” Keselowski said. “We have probably a half a dozen tires remaining that have no margin and I would expect similar issues through the season. No margin from last year and we have increased the demand significantly.

“If you are going to fix it, you either have to change the margin on the tire or put the cars back to their configuration last year where they were less harsh on the tires.”

Jeff Gordon was also critical of Goodyear, saying that the tire situation was “just uncalled for.” However, other drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch agreed with NASCAR’s belief that the matter wasn’t a Goodyear problem.

Earnhardt singled out Fontana’s bumpy backstretch as a culprit behind the issues, while Busch noted NASCAR’s decision to let teams decide on camber changes for their cars.

F1 drivers split on new ‘shield’ protection

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Formula One drivers are split over plans to test a new “shield” device to protect against flying debris.

The FIA will trial the transparent screen in the coming months for a potential introduction in 2018, as it pushes for greater head protection for drivers. Recent years have seen major head injuries in several motorsport series.

“I wouldn’t mind trying out the shield, seeing how is the visibility,” Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas said on Thursday. “In terms of safety it would be a good step compared to what we have now.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was another supporter, saying “we’ve still got to see a bit more, but first impressions seem OK.”

The FIA previously seemed to favor a metal frame known as the “halo,” which was designed to stop a flying wheel hitting a driver’s head but was criticized by some drivers on aesthetic grounds.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat said on Thursday he was “quite against” the shield and the halo. “The way Formula One should look should remain the same,” he added. “We have enough protection.”

Romain Grosjean of Haas voiced concern the “next step” would be completely closed cockpits.

Recent years have seen several high-profile head injuries, including the deaths of Formula Two driver Henry Surtees in 2009 when he was hit by a loose wheel and IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who was struck by debris, in 2015.

In Formula One, Brazilian driver Felipe Massa missed the second half of the 2009 season when a loose spring from another car hit his helmet, leaving him needing surgery.

Haas changes F1 brake supplier ahead of Russian Grand Prix

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Haas has switched from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in a bid to remedy its long-running braking issues in Formula 1.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation onto the F1 grid in 2016, with Romain Grosjean scoring all 29 of its points through its debut season.

Grosjean and then-teammate Esteban Gutierrez had their efforts spurned on a number of occasions by brake issues which continued to arise through pre-season testing in 2017 and the early races.

Haas pushed to remedy the issue by testing new Carbon Industrie brakes in the post-Bahrain Grand Prix test, with Grosjean and new teammate Kevin Magnussen conducting running.

The team duly decided to fit the new Carbon Industrie brakes for this weekend’s race in Russia, with both VF-17 cars to run with them from Friday onwards.

“To be fair to Brembo, the last update in brakes we had that arrived in China were much better. It took a long time to get them,” Grosjean explained.

“So then I was not screaming to change to Carbone Industrie but it was in the pipeline, so we tried them, and both drivers were pretty pleased with them. We felt like we had more control under braking.

“I’m very sensitive to my left pedal, so I really need to get good brakes to get good confidence and push the car to its maximum limit. So we are going to run them here.

“There is still a little bit of work we need to be doing around the mapping and finding the solution around those brakes but I think yeah, definitely it’s going to help me a little bit to find the last few hundredths.”

NHRA: Chad Head to substitute for Alexis DeJoria in Charlotte

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Alexis DeJoria will miss this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, with her Kalitta Motorsports team confirming DeJoria will need to tend to a family matter.

Chad Head, Kalitta Motorsports Director of Safety, will step into the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry this weekend. No timetable was given for DeJoria’s return; after Charlotte this weekend, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues for its third consecutive race weekend next week in Atlanta.

This isn’t the first race DeJoria has had to miss recently, as she also was diagnosed with a concussion and missed the 2016 NHRA season finale in Pomona.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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Following his victory in Bahrain two weeks ago, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel arrived in Russia on Thursday targeting a third win of the year to extend his lead at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship.

Not since 2004 has a Ferrari driver made such a good start to a season, putting Vettel in contention for a fifth world title this year – although with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton hot on his tail, it will have to be a hard-earned success.

The fourth round of the year sees F1 head to the Olympic city of Sochi, which hosted the winter games back in 2014. The Sochi Autodrom played host to its first grand prix the same year, and is now a key part of Russia’s post-Olympic legacy.

Bringing you all of the latest news and interviews ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, Will Buxton brings you Paddock Pass.