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Denny Hamlin's downright feisty Sunday at Bristol. But what's the real deal on all these blown tires?

Denny Hamlin's downright feisty Sunday at Bristol. But what's the real deal on all these blown tires?

A cloudy day at Bristol, but a full day, and some of the drivers were really feeling their oats (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   BRISTOL, Tenn.
   Looks like Denny Hamlin has a little edge on him right now, doesn't it?
   Maybe NASCAR ought to give him a few bucks back for livening up the show here Sunday.
   But, uh, thinking Martinsville's Clay Campbell is already producing some TV ads to promote his April 7th 500 as an encore performance for Hamlin and former teammate Joey Logano, who was vowing to 'come after' Hamlin after their run-in late in the Food City 500.
    It was a hotly contested three hours at Bristol Motor Speedway, the high-banked half-mile where tempers typically flare.
    Half a dozen blown right-front tires sent drivers into the wall, and raised a few questions. Goodyear said the tire failures were melted beads, the result of over-heated brakes. But Kenny Francis, the winning crew chief, said he wasn't so sure it was that, but perhaps rather sidewall failures, from the tremendous load these tires have to endure here.
   NASCAR's new 2013s are very fast race cars, and speeds here were breath-taking. Using more brake would be expected.
   Francis, one of the new breed of cerebral crew chiefs, says right-front blows are "not uncommon here.
   "We've had our share over the years. 
    "I tend to call the tire changes pretty conservatively.  I was pretty worried about the guys that took left-side tires (only, two-tire stops instead of four-tire stops).  Most of those cases they had a problem."
   Jeff Gordon was one of those, and so was Jimmie Johnson.
   "I don't mean to second guess anyone for the way they call their race, but I consciously didn't do that because I have been through that before," Francis went on.
   "My philosophy on this place is the tires will make a fuel run (about 120 to 140 laps), and anything beyond a fuel run, you're taking your chances.  When Jeff had his problems, it was beyond the laps of a normal fuel run.
    "The other problem that compounds that  -- over the years what I've learned -- the more restarts you have on a right-side tire on a track like this -- and Dover is another one -- the more potential you have to have a problem... because when you restart, it (the tires) are at low pressure. It's not as durable at low pressure as it is after the pressure builds up. 
     "If you have multiple restarts on a right-side tire, you have to watch out.
   "I hate it that guys have problems; but we consciously called the race to avoid that type of problem.
    "I didn't see any of the tires; (but) I don't think they were melted beads.  I've personally done it a number of times here -- had right-front sidewall failures. 
   "The problem here is it's just so much load; it's such an aggressive turn. 
   "The tire will run a full fuel run.  When you try to push it beyond that, it's questionable. 
    "There's only so much that Goodyear can do.  I think you've got to consider that.  In working with Goodyear over the years, with Rick Campbell in particular, he's very open about helping you, helping you understand what's going on with the tire, how to manage it. 
    "These cars weigh a lot, they go really fast, there's a lot of load.  It's all about managing the setup around the tire.
    "At Phoenix I think they were melted beads. I think that's selfinduced; there are things you can do to prevent that. The teams that had that happen are actively fixing it; a lot of teams that ran Phoenix didn't have a single problem."


   Denny Hamlin was one of many drivers having right-front tire problems. Goodyear blamed them on excessive brake heat and melted tire beads. Not everyone agreed. Are the new 2013s so much faster than the old COT race cars that brakes and tires are suddenly an issue? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Gordon was on his way to a nice finish, but that two-tire gamble didn't pay off. However track position, clear air, was quite important, as Kasey Kahne showed in the final miles, sprinting away.
   And a two-tire stop could improve track position.
    "We wanted left-sides," Gordon said, "because we heard left-sides were helping the cars turn. It definitely did."
   Left-sides would also wear unusually -- 'grain up' -- on a green track.
   So Gordon made the gamble: "The car was really good out front on the restarts in clean air.  We were setting sail. 
    "The right-fronts never blow out when you are up against the wall.  I dove down to the bottom to pass Terry Labonte; as soon as I got into the banking I felt the right-front go. 
    "I really hate we collected Matt Kenseth. He had a great car, he was coming. It was just a matter of time before it got us."


  Not quite the way Jeff Gordon (top) and Matt Kenseth (bottom) planned to finish Sunday's Bristol 500.... (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


What no comment on the

What no comment on the "bumpers don't match up"??? NASCAR works on a problem for 4 races and screws up about 35 races. OK everyone, let's hear a big "Do'h"!!!! See picture above for results.

4 V 2

Taking two is and should be risky. Been saying for years that we need tires that fall off and fail in order to bring true tire strategy back into the sport. It's an element of excitement that's gone away when GY started bringing extremely hard tires every place they run.

Is Tire Strategy Really Good For Racing?

I cannot remember a race where tire strategy added anything positive to the racing. Racing is supposed to be about passing and repassing; if anything tires SHOULD be hard enough that (to use a 1989 Bob Newton quote) "teams will learn they don't need fifteen sets of tires to win a race." Needing half that many to be able to race hard - that should be a huge positive for the sport.


Well, no surprise that Goodyear would blame it on the drivers/crew chiefs. Like NASCAR, with Goodyear, it's never their fault. Of course, Francis was probably right, too, that being conservative with the tire changes was a good safe way to go.

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Typical Goodyear

Indeed, Goodyear carries itself with the belief that it should NEVER be accountable.

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