Brickyard flashback: NASCAR’s “tire gate” in ’08

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Sprinkled in among the highlights of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s more than 100 years in existence are a few bad, loud clunkers.

And this year marks five years since NASCAR’s worst day at the track.

The 2008 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard was a perfect combination of a new car (the Car of Tomorrow), Goodyear’s tire compounds to match and its meshing – or lack thereof – with the diamond-ground IMS track surface unable to work in harmony.

What it meant was a plethora of competition cautions, roughly every 10 to 12 laps, over the 160-lap race. The first accident on the day occurred when Michael Waltrip crashed on Lap 4, so the first of nine competition cautions flew on Lap 14.

Jimmie Johnson won but it ranks among his most hollow victories, if not the most hollow.

It was the second difficult event for a series at IMS in a four-year period, following another tire-related debacle in 2005 for the Formula One race there. Michelin couldn’t guarantee the safety of its tires through the banked Turn 13, oval Turn 1, and when no compromise was reached between the FIA, the teams and Michelin for a fix, the Michelin runners (14 of 20) withdrew following the formation lap.

While NASCAR’s show at IMS has had nowhere to go but up since 2008, the attendance numbers have fallen off dramatically. This year marks the second attempt at an IMS Super Weekend, with the NASCAR Nationwide Series and GRAND-AM’s Rolex and Continental Tire championships joining Cup at the track.