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.

IndyCar: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports expands mentoring program for tech school students

Photos: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
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IndyCar team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced today that it is extending and widening a unique sponsorship and mentoring program that began last season with students from Lincoln Technical Institute.

The program began last year, with students from several Lincoln Tech branches attending select IndyCar events for an entire weekend.

The students, primarily from auto and diesel training programs, got an insiders experience with the team, taking part in team meetings, watching team workers prepare and service the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe, sat on pit boxes during practices, qualifying and, of course races.

The overall experience was to get students more interested and involved in potential careers in the IndyCar field.

“We said at the beginning of last season that we knew our students would benefit and learn from the professionalism and drive of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team,” Lincoln Tech President and CEO Scott Shaw said. “But the experience they received working with the entire pit crew team and in particular crew member Cole Jagger – a Lincoln Tech graduate himself – went beyond even our own expectations.

“We were grateful for the time they spent mentoring our students, and we are thrilled to once again be part of the racing legacy of team owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson.”

Lincoln Tech will once again serve as an associate sponsor on Hinchcliffe’s car for the entire 2018 IndyCar season. In addition, it is expanding its Mentor Program to select students to attend a minimum of nine IndyCar races from six last season.

Students are selected based upon their grade point average, attendance, conduct and overall commitment to becoming outstanding automotive technicians. An interest in IndyCar and a desire to work in the industry is also considered.

One student that took part last season, Tyler Crist of Lincoln Tech’s Denver campus, joined the team at the IndyCar race in Long Beach last April, watching as Hinchcliffe won the event.

“It was the best weekend of my life,” Crist said after the event. “It reminded me of why I joined this field in the first place and to never give up on my dreams.”

Jagger will oversee the expanded mentoring program this season. For Jagger, being involved especially hits home, as he is a graduate of Lincoln Tech’s Indianapolis campus.

“I totally enjoyed working with the Lincoln Tech students that participated in the Mentor Program last year and look forward to meeting this year’s group,” Jagger said. “Being a Lincoln Tech grad, I hope the students realize that if you have a passion for cars, a career in racing is something that’s not out of reach. If I can be an example for them to follow, that makes it even more rewarding.”

In addition to the at-track activities of the mentoring program, several Lincoln Tech branches across the country will utilize CNC computerized machining and manufacturing tools to assist in creating car parts for SPM.

“Through this unique partnership, we’re able to hopefully find the next class of talent that could one day be part of our organization,” SPM president Jon Flack said. “We’re looking forward to another year of the mentorship program and having their students be ‘boots on the ground’ gaining real-life experience with our team.”

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