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.