Air pressure the name of the game in this tire fiasco

With a stock car with stock parts in a series to where there’s no real separation between the top teams and the bottom, any sort of advantage to be gained can be the difference in winning or not. An area that has been explored is with tire pressures.

By playing with tire pressures, you’re not doing anything illegal. It’s allowed. However, it’s not advised either to go outside of the limits that Goodyear places on where to run your air pressures at.

While a lot of folks blamed Goodyear, Texas and even the Next Gen for the tire fiasco in Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500, it’s sounding more and more like this was an air pressure problem from the get go.

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“It has been widely documented that the balance of the Next Gen car has shifted towards the rear,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing entering the week of Texas. “On a weekly basis, optimizing tire performance is a key element in having a successful weekend. Air pressure, suspension geometry and shock settings work in unison to get the most out of the tire package. Being aggressive in any one of those areas is certainly a recipe for short-term speed, but the risk vs. reward of those choices can often come back and bite you.

“We work very closely with teams throughout the week and at the track, providing as much data as we can to help them make the right tire choices. We understand that teams are in a constant search for speed, but finding the edge of that envelope is key to finishing races.”

He called his shot and did so days before we witnessed 16 cautions for 91 laps in a sloppy NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas.

The initial indications came back to the tire woes being placed on teams running lower than normal air pressures.

Chase Elliott gets out of his car after crashing in Sunday’s playoff race at Texas on Lap 183

“We’re gaining as much information as we can from the teams, trying to understand where they are with regard to their settings, air pressures, cambers, suspicions,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing Sunday. “For sure I can say without a doubt air pressure is playing into it. We know where a lot of the guys are. Some were more aggressive than others. We know that plays a part.

“I’m not saying that’s the only thing, but it’s certainly a factor, so we’re just trying to understand everything else that is going on with regard to specific teams. We know a lot of guys have not had issues. We’ve had guys put full fuel runs on tires, but, obviously, other guys have had issues. We’ll be working with them to try to sort through that is.”

NASCAR agreed.

“Well, I mean, obviously we saw a lot of tire problems, and we saw a lot of teams that didn’t have tire problems,” Scott Miller said on Sunday night from Texas.

“We’re working through that. Goodyear is working through that with the teams, working through what the setups were, what the air pressures were, to try to get to the bottom of it.

“There was a lot of teams that reported no problems to us post-race, and they did admit to being a little bit on the conservative side air pressure and being closer to the suggested minimums that Goodyear recommended.

“I don’t really know how to comment on how long a tire should last.

“The top four at least ran 64 laps home. If they can go 64 laps, they have plenty of tires to get the job done.

“We’re all learning about the setups, the tires. Goodyear is learning about the construction, the new wheel. It’s part of a learning — it’s an unfortunate part of a learning process.”

Tyler Reddick’s crew chief, Randall Burnett, agreed that they went conservative with their tire setups and it paid off.

“We came into this race a little conservative,” he said. “We got bit at Kansas the other week with one. I think we’ve had four tires go down this year while leading the race.

“R.C. talked to me about it and said, Make sure you keep some air in the tires today. I tried to do that. A little bit more conservative approach this week. It’s a fine line. Everybody knows the speed, pushing the limits of the tires.

“With the low sidewalls, they’re not as forgiving as the 15-inch wheel stuff we had before. It’s a lot finer line, I think.

“I mean, there’s so many things that go into it, right? It’s tire pressure, it’s camber in the tires, it’s where you’re running on the racetrack. More often than not you see a guy that’s leading blow a tire, it’s because he has the cleanest air, the most air, most downforce on his car because he’s out front. Sometimes it overloads the tire.

“That’s kind of where we’re at with them.”

Even Chase Elliott who had a tire end his day on lap 183 agreed.

“I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault,” he said. “Goodyear always takes the black eye, but they’re put in a really tough position by NASCAR to build a tire that can survive these types of racetracks with this car. I wouldn’t blame Goodyear.”

So maybe there is some merit to this after all. However, it’s got to get addressed and fixed because we’re 30 races into the season and it’s not gotten any better.

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