Joey Logano: “We’re concerned” about more tire issues

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It took him some time, but Team Penske’s Joey Logano appears to have finally gotten a grip on Texas Motor Speedway.

Prior to last year’s pair of races on the 1.5-mile oval, “Sliced Bread” had only one Top-5 finish in his first nine starts there. But then came a fifth-place finish in last year’s spring race and then a third-place finish in the fall.

However, Logano and Team Penske are keeping an eye out for more tire issues this weekend at TMS after being one of several teams afflicted by tire failures earlier this month at Fontana.

A broken rear-end gear relegated Logano to a 39th-place finish in the race, but teammate Brad Keselowski suffered a tire failure with less than 10 laps to go that knocked him from the Top 5 to a 26th-place result.

Goodyear has said that they’re confident their Texas tire combination, which features a new version of its ‘multi-zone’ technology for the right sides, will hold up just fine. But that doesn’t appear to have completely alleviated Logano’s fears.

“We’re concerned this weekend for sure for when we get out there,” Logano said today at TMS. “This new package, with the added downforce and added load on these cars – we’re going faster –  it puts a little more strain on these tires and this is one of those race tracks that if you run on that white line, you’re catching some of that apron and we really think that’s what was blowing the tires out.

“You have a lot of camber and then when you put it down on the apron, it’s basically like adding more and it blows out the shoulder of the tire there. With that the added left-rear camber also, they start doing that on low air-pressures for awhile it starts to break away the tread from the sidewall there. Yeah, it’s a concern this weekend for sure.”

Logano admitted that he’d personally like to see a “little tougher” tire to help cut down on the failures but noted that a visit to Goodyear’s factory over the off-season enlightened him on how tricky the manufacturer’s job is to create proper tires for each track.

“They’ve got a lot of really smart people over [at Goodyear], but our cars ask a lot out of a tire,” he said. “I’ve got the most faith in those guys that anyone can have and that’s why I try to help them as much as I can is to give them the best insight of what we’re fighting.

“I know as Team Penske, we give them all the information we possibly can to help them make decisions when they’re back at their shop.”

As for the prospect of the tire issues migrating to the left-side tires if the right-sides did get toughened up, Logano isn’t sure that would be the case.

“I think the issue comes from running on the apron or having a lot of camber at low air-pressures,” he said. “I think that’s where they have the separation issue. I don’t believe the right side tire is gonna change what we’ve got on the left side for that particular issue.

“There might be a different issue I don’t know about that may pop up or may not, but I think for that particular issue, the right side tire shouldn’t have anything to do with that.”

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”