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Goodyear appears to be making little progress in developing a new NASCAR-Indy tire, so more testing is planned


Brian Vickers: ready to win again? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Now that the international version of Team Red Bull, the Formula One bunch, has broken through -- so much so with that one-two finish in Shanghai had some calling them the 'Red Bullies' – maybe it's time for the Austrian company's American version to step things up a notch.
   But Brian Vickers, lead driver for Jay Frye's two-car NASCAR Toyota operation, says first he and his team "just need to stop beating ourselves.
    "We've sat on the pole this year. We qualified top-five last week and ran the top-10, top-five all day. 
   "We almost won Atlanta. We were racing for the lead when the caution came out and lost like seven spots in the pits. 
    "At California we sat on the pole but had to start last because the engine blew up. 
    "At Vegas we qualified well, had a winning car, but had to start last because the engine blew up. 
    "At Bristol I think we cut a tire. 
     "Texas was probably the only track where we had (only) a 15th-place car.  Other than that, we've run in the top-10 or top-five and we've had a car capable of that, and we've put ourselves in that position.
    "We've had a car capable of winning, and we led laps, but we've beat ourselves. 
    "At Phoenix last week we got caught for speeding on pit road -- which ultimately is my responsibility, and I’ll take responsibility for that. But we found out when we got back to the shop that the tach was off. 
    "Those are the kind of mistakes that we can't make. 
     "It seems like Toyota has fixed the engine problem.
    "And the pit road stuff that's cost us some wins and some good finishes we seem to be getting under control.  We've got a new pit coach (Lance Munksgard) who's done a great job.  The guys are really starting to come together the past few weeks.  We haven't made up a lot of spots but we haven't lost any either.  We’ve had a good consistent day on pit road. 
    "The mistake with the tach is unfortunate, but it's something we've got to get a handle on.  You can't win a championship and continually step on your own feet. 
    "You can't continue to make those mistakes.
    "But when it comes to performance we had it last year and we have it this year. 
    "We're running well enough, and we're running plenty fast enough to win races and run in the top-five.
     "We've just got to stop beating ourselves."

     Carl Edwards and David Gilliland were the two fastest in final Friday practice for Saturday's Talladega Aaron's 499 pole runs, both at nearly 195 mph.
     But in cooler morning practice Robby Gordon, David Reutimann and Jeff Burton were all over 197 mph.
     There are 45 cars vying for the 43 spots. Noticeably missing -- the Wood brothers and Bill Elliott.

    Vickers ran in Goodyear's rain-shortened Indy tire test this week, and little was learned, so teams are going back again. Goodyear has tested three times already at legendary Indy, but tires are still lasting only about 30 miles before wearing out. Teams typically expect a set of tires to run 100 miles; however at last year's Indy 400 NASCAR drivers could barely get 20 miles on a set of tires.

      The Indy 400 tires last season wore much too fast. Teams complained NASCAR and Goodyear should have done a better job of keeping on top of the issue in the months before the race. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

"Obviously last year was an embarrassment for the sport at Indianapolis," Vickers says. "It was not at all what anybody wanted.
   "And I commend NASCAR and Goodyear – They're going above and beyond to try to get this problem fixed. 
    "They've already done several tests there.  They've made some huge gains in the tires.
    "We tested and made more gains. 
     "For the most part, I was pleased with the control tire from a race-ability standpoint.  It lasted much longer than what we saw last year in the tire test going into the race…but not as good as we'd like to see. 
    "I think they're looking for perfection; they're looking to make it as good a race as it deserves to be.
    "So we're going back next week to try to further improve on the gains."
    Last October Goodyear tested at Indy; that tire had good grip but fell off too fast.
   "Yes, that's true," Vickers says. "I was not there at the test, but from my understanding that's pretty much what they saw.
    And we saw it again at this test.  We put on that tire again, and the speeds picked up quite a bit, but the tire looked a lot better. 
    "It is fast. The tire that seems to work best is very fast…which I don't necessarily think is a good thing…but I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. 
   "Unfortunately, from what I've seen from all the testing that I've done there, we're going to have a fast tire. There’s just no way around it. 
   "When you make these tires slower and harder, they just slide across the pavement -- and because of that grooving (in the Indy track), it just turns into a shredder, and they just don't last. 
    "So we're going to have to have a softer, faster tire that essentially will grip the track instead of sliding across it, I think, to make it last.
   "If they can find a way around it, great. But if not, I think we just accept the inevitable and have a fast tire and good race."

Remember last summer's angry fans at NASCAR's Indy 400? Well, NASCAR has some major league PR damage repair to do before this year's race -- and a good idea would be for a major, full-blown test at Indy in June, with all the teams...and open it to fans, and have the drivers and crew chiefs signing autographs. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Tires ?

Why doesn't anyone drag the track with tires any more to try to help rubber it in? I understand the Indy tires are different and Indy probably won't be available for Goodyear now until after the 500, but I thought part of the problem in 2008 was that Indy never rubbered in. At the same time, I've never seen a really thorough explanation of the tire problem at Indy for 2008. Geez I wish the CAPTCHA was easier to read. Human

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