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.”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.