Goodyear confident of tire performance this weekend in Texas

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Two weekends ago, Goodyear found itself both criticized and defended after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway featured a plethora of tire failures – including several that occurred within the final handful of laps.

Last weekend, tires weren’t the issue at the short track of Martinsville Speedway. But now, the series has set up shop at Texas Motor Speedway, which features multiple grooves and a worn-out track surface like that of the the two-mile ACS oval in Fontana, California.

For this week’s Cup and Nationwide Series races at TMS, Goodyear is rolling out a tire combination that features the same left-side tires that have been used there since 2011 and a new version of its “multi-zone” tires for its right-side rubber.

The multi-zone tires, which combine two distinct tread compounds for more grip and durability, debuted last August at Atlanta Motor Speedway. They were brought back at Kansas Speedway later on in October.

NASCAR has opted not to regulate tire pressures for this weekend’s events, with vice president of competition Robin Pemberton telling the Associated Press that they want the teams to determine their own fate in that regard.

“If a guy has a tire issue that is self-inflicted and gets out of the car and blames Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., that’s a bad deal,” Pemberton said to the AP.

“That basically is what some of them tried to do at California.”

At Fontana, Pemberton said that the tire failures largely came down to aggressive set-ups from the teams that included running air pressures far lower than the tire maker’s recommendations.

Post-race reaction from the drivers were mixed, as Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski put the blame on Goodyear for not being prepared well enough.

Others such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch said that the failures were for other reasons such as Fontana’s bump-ridden backstretch and the aforementioned set-ups.

Today at TMS, Goodyear racing director Greg Stucker said he was confident that the tire combo for this weekend would perform well under pressure.

“I think on the heels of some of the issues we saw at Fontana, people are asking the question, ‘Is there a possibility we could see the same thing?’ There’s always that possibility,” he said.

“People are always pushing the envelope, always trying to stress all parts of the racecar. We understand that and support that. That’s what makes racing great, right? Historically [at Texas], we haven’t seen a lot of that so I don’t have a lot of concerns above and beyond what we would have in a normal weekend.”

Pemberton also said today that he expected the teams to continue pushing the envelope even after the Fontana failures.

“I’m proud of them to push the limits like that,” he said. “But they also know they have to finish races. They know better than we do. We’re just the governing body.

“They’re the competitors. They’ve got a lot on the line. They’re the best at pushing it to the limit. They’ll adjust accordingly.”

Goodyear’s pressure recommendations for TMS are as follows:

  • Technical Inspection Inflation: Left Front — 30 psi; Left Rear — 30 psi Right Front — 50 psi; Right Rear — 47 psi
  • Minimum Recommended Inflation: Left Front — 23 psi; Left Rear — 21 psi; Right Front — 51 psi; Right Rear — 47 psi

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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