Ahead of the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, here’s a roundup of notable news and notes from around the NASCAR world.
Goodyear Puts Its Foot Down
Goodyear has had enough of the shenanigans of NASCAR Cup Series teams.
Two weeks after a rash of left-rear tire failures at Kansas Speedway, NASCAR’s official tire provider put out its weekly notice regarding tire info for the Coca-Cola 600 weekend. This time, Goodyear officials didn’t mince words when it came to its minimum tire pressure recommendations.
“’Recommended’ is more than a recommendation” the notice began.
“Goodyear bases its minimum air pressure recommendations on its decades of experience in NASCAR racing, an aggressive on-track testing program, computer modeling and simulation, and observations made week-to-week at NASCAR weekends,” the notice said. “The minimum recommended pressure on the left-rear corner of the Cup car for this weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is 22 psi. While it is listed as ‘recommended,” it is much more than that – it is a data based number that speaks more to what the tire requires to operate.
“As has been discussed before, the rear of the Next Gen Cup car sees higher loads than on the previous generation car. In addition to camber and shock settings, running the proper air pressure in the tire is vital. Running below Goodyear’s recommended pressure causes the sidewall of the tire to over-deflect, causing damage early in a run that may result in air loss later in a run.”
At Kansas Speedway, SPEED SPORT asked two Cup crew chiefs, Jerame Donley at Petty GMS Motorsports and Randall Burnett at Richard Childress Racing, if they had been surprised by the slew of tire failures during practice and qualifying that weekend. Neither were.
“I think everybody is pushing the issue there,” Donley said. “Every week you’re looking at wheel loads, cambers, pressures, tires. It doesn’t surprise me that people are continuing to push the issue there because its grip and it’s speed. It’s nothing new from what we’ve done in years past, it’s just this car with the independent rear suspension, it definitely highlights that left-rear sensitivity more than it ever has.”
Donley also pointed to a difference in driver racing style being a part of the problem.
“If you lined up all 40 cars, and everybody put the same air pressure in the left rear, I bet you’d see a couple of guys have issues,” Donley said. “And a couple guys wouldn’t have issues just because of the difference in the drivers.”
Blake Harris, the first year crew chief for Michael McDowell at Front Row Motorsports addressed the topic on Wednesday.
Harris believes the problem is a combination of air pressure/camber and tire construction.
“I think we have a we have a wider range than we’ve had in the past with cambers,” Harris said. “Air pressure, that’s not really changed, I think maybe we get into some of these sessions where you get a false sense of security with where you’re currently at, where you look at your teammate’s information and they didn’t blow a tire and they’re lower camber or lower load.”
Harris believes teams are pushing the limit on tire pressured as they “normally would” in the past.
The difference though is in the shocks of the Next Gen car.
“We’re sitting all up to the shock, if not on the shock, at a lot of these tracks,” Harris said. “When you hit a spike load of however many 1000s of pounds, if you’re already pushing it on all those parameters, air pressure, and load and camber, you get those spike loads, especially when you first come out on the track. I think that’s why in practice, and sometimes green-flag stops, you see that happen almost immediately, because the pace is whipped up, the downforce is at a maximum amount, you’re going through the corners at the most amount of load that you’ll see at that point in time.”
Denny Hamlin: NASCAR has ‘diluted everything’
Denny Hamlin has a lot on his mind and doesn’t filter it much these days.
That was on display last weekend when the driver / team co-owner was vocal about how NASCAR handled the end of the All-Star Race and Ryan Blaney’s safety net problem.
So it was great timing that Hamlin was this week’s guest on Dale Earnhardt Jr’s podcast, “The Dale Jr. Download.”
Hamlin addressed a wide range of topics. But here are just a couple of highlights, including his view of the current state of the All-Star Race itself.
“I think that we’ve diluted our sport so much that it’s just hard to consider anything special anymore,” Hamlin said. “It’s fixable. I just don’t know what. I don’t know if we got put on short track or something. They don’t have to have three quarters of the field out there. We’ve diluted everything, the playoffs … we just keep adding cars.”
Hamlin even addressed the much touted winner’s purse of $1 million, which he said two weeks ago needs to be “updated.”
“When (Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass) posts every week, ‘Here’s the Cup purse,’ the All-Star is less,” Hamlin said. “(In today’s money) it’s $2.7 million. $1 million back when they started this is 2.7 today. So the TV money is going up. Where’s it going? Someone’s got it.”
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Hamlin also addressed how long he may continue to race in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver isn’t sure, but he’s adamant you won’t see him compete in anything that’s not competitive equipment.
“I’ve said that many times I don’t even consider myself a top-100 talent in our sport, but I’ve just worked really, really hard at my craft and that’s what’s carried me,” said Hamlin, who is the winningest Cup driver to not win a Cup title. “Between that and having one of the best teams in the garage every week, that’s why I don’t want to get in a worse car because it’s going to expose me in a big way. I’d rather just kind of keep keep things as they are. And when that’s done, then I’ll be done.”
While Hamlin said he’d be willing to race for his own team, 23XI Racing, he’d rather retire at Joe Gibbs Racing with the support of long-time sponsor FedEx.
“It’s just it’s so unique to have a sponsor that has been part of the sport as long as they have and backed me as long as they have,” said Hamlin. “There’s just no way I could leave them. … I would like to retire it at Gibbs with FedEx, but if things change, things change.”
There were only two penalties on this week’s penalty report from NASCAR, each were for unsecured lug nuts.
In the Xfinity Series, Bruce Schlicker, crew chief for A.J. Allmendinger’s No. 16 car was fined $5,000 for one unsecured lug nut.
In the Camping World Truck Series, Danny Stockman Jr., crew chief on Chandler Smith’s No. 18 truck, was fined $2,500 for one unsecured lug nut
Another week of races airing on FOX Sports 1 brought another week of bad rating news for NASCAR.
The All-Star Race got a 1.38 rating and an average of 2.481 million viewers. That’s down from a 1.64 rating and 2.735 million for last year’s race, which was in mid June.
In the 18-49 demographic, the race had 545,000 viewers.
While Sunday’s All-Star Race wasn’t a good event by any measure, you want to have the best ratings possible, right?
Good thing this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 is on the main FOX network. But then only two of the next eight Cup races – at Nashville Superspeedway and the Indianapolis Road Course – are on network TV.