Jeff Gordon: Brickyard 400 a go

June 16, 2009
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gordonGoodyear officials in town today for their final tire test before the July 26 Brickyard 400 think they have the problem solved that caused their tires to shred during last year’s race.

While NASCAR downplayed tire problems they’ve been having at Indianapolis, sources close to the series said there was lots of consternation until testing at the track June 1-2. No track has held more tire tests than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the last year.

“This has been our No. 1 priority for the last 11 months, and I think we got it right,” Greg Stucker, Goodyear director of race tire sales, said late this morning.

NASCAR drivers Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne today said the tires tested this week at Indianapolis were a major improvement over the ones used during last year's problem-plagued race.

“You can trust me, they’ve got it solved,” Gordon said at a press conference which wrapped up shortly after noon today at the Speedway.

Stucker said the test two weeks ago was a huge turning point in coming up with the correct rubber compound that would stand up to the IMS track. He added that despite the heavy rains in central Indiana, there was still rubber on the track from the test two weeks ago.

Stucker said the tire that was designed for the Brickyard 400 is one that was developed specifically for the diamond-ground Speedway, and would not be used at other tracks. Stucker would not say how much it cost to develop the tire, but industry sources estimated the cost in the mid six-figure range.

“Yesterday to me was a mark of how much progress they have made,” Gordon said. “This test, we never even came close to the wear holes. The excessive wear that some of us were expecting was not there. It was fantastic.”

Despite the Goodyear fix, there are still serious concerns about Brickyard 400 attendance, and that could have as much bearing on the Indy Racing League as NASCAR. IMS and IRL boss Tony George has long used profits from the Brickyard to prop up the open-wheel series.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France countered this week that reports of lagging ticket sales for the Brickyard 400 were overstated. Recent reports estimate ticket sales are in the 100,000 range. The Brickyard, which has arguably become the second biggest race on the NASCAR circuit, typically draws 230,000 spectators and brings in an estimated $35 million to $40 million annually to the Speedway.

“NASCAR is not being hit anywhere near that hard in other markets,” said Larry DeGaris, director of academic sports marketing programs at the University of Indianapolis who has conducted several independent studies on NASCAR. “If the attendance really has dropped off that much, you’d have to wonder about the marketing of this event. The Speedway only has so many resources, so it may be a case where they’ve focused more resources on the [Indianapolis] 500.”

If the Brickyard 400 has a big attendance drop off, it may be difficult to get it back to its glory days.

“Sports attendance is a ritualistic behavior,” DeGaris said. “Once you break that cycle, it can be really difficult to re-start it.”
  • The Junkyard 400 is toast. NASCAR is so yesterday and the race itself sucks. LOTS of empty seats for this one. Then done.
  • Can someone explain how the 400 ran without tire incident for so many years and then suddenly experienced an issue last year? Was it the first year of a new surface? Did the IRL have to change their tire composition as well?
  • There were also LOTS of empty seats for the Indy 500. How soon we forget.

    The Brickyard sucks as much as the 500 in terms of passing. Single file racing all day long. Only chance to pass is in the pits. Nothing new here.

    The arguments of NASCAR and the IRL sucking is way past tiresome. Find something else to complain about, like the lack of trees on the Monon.
  • IMS is overbuilt. Seriously. They need to take out about 50,000 seats.

    But that won't take the suck out of Suckcar.

    Get ready for the NASCAR oldies nostalgia tours. Thery are done having hits.

    NASCAR is yesterday's news.
  • Curious: The reason the track had problems is because the Car of Tomorrow was rolled out and it was heavier than the old cars which caused faster wear. The haters will point out diamond grinding, but Firestone never had problems and the previous NASCAR races never had problems. It simply was the NASCAR COT and Goodyear not adapting their tires to the new car.
  • For what it is worth this is the explanation I have received from numerous sources about what caused the tire troubles last year.
    First, Indianapolis Motor Speedway was recently ground down to smooth out the surface and increase the overall grip levels. As a result of the grinding the newly abrasive surface was chewing up tires. The reason it was chewing up the tires faster than expected had lots to do with the new car set-up last year. And Goodyear folks said the smaller bits of rubber that came off the tires never rubbered-in to the track. If you've heard announcers talking about the groove they're talking about where a layer of rubber has been layed down as cars pass over a certain part of the track ... and it's where racers often like to race (in the groove) in part to minimize tire wear. The reason the track doesn't affect IRL cars' tires in the same way is because they are quite a bit lighter than NASCAR cars and the way they are set up greatly affects tire wear. And some would argue the IRL has a different, some would say better, tire supplier. I'm not saying that, but some would. Hope that helps. Thanks for reading.
  • Anthony- I think it would help to say that the track wasn't recently ground down, but to say that a few years ago. There have been a couple Napcar races here since without problem. The fault lies strictly on Napcar and Goodyear for failing to either a) recogize that the different car would cause different wear or b) not caring to find out.
  • Ryan is right.

    The blame goes to Goodyear.

    Trac is also right. While TonyCo will gladly take the buckets of goober cash bestowed upon them annually by the Dales and Bubbas, their days are numbered. Will the France Mafioso like to see the 1/2 empty HickYard 400 on TV? At what point will they be embarrassed enough to say NO MORE HICKYARD!.........My gut tells me they have 2-3 more...try come gimmicks, try some Danicles, hell even put PT in a car!

    IMS: EARL isn't the only thing that's sucking at the track. :lol:
  • You all crack me up. 2 to 3 more Brickyard 400's? The Brickyard won't be removed from the NASCAR schedule any time soon. One of the largest purses in NASCAR isn't going anywhere.
  • The IMS track got its last diamond grinding in the spring of 2002. While the NASCAR COT was a big, big part of the problem, it's a pretty well known fact in NASCAR circles that the Brickyard's pavement is rougher than most. In fact, I would venture to say, it's probably due for an overlay.
  • IMS is way overdue for a pave job. Diamond grinding was another band aid fix for the poorly designed crapwagon doing moonshots.
  • Seriously, this July will feature one of the last Allfake 400 at the Sickyard races for NASCAR.

    2009 finds NASCAR is in a gradual descent and the crew is trying to troubleshoot the problem at the moment. They are trying some things and there is hope.

    But this old, worn out, clunker is going to drop faster than an RJ on a Buffalo rooftop in the next three years and with it will be the disintegration of the annual hickabilly sleepover at at W. 16th and Gomertown.

    Plus, Tony Baloney and Company will no longer need the prop-up cash, what little there is of it anymore from these NASCAR holler gnomes, when the IRL is nothing more than a 6-7 race series.

    No, better say your See ya later fellers to all your red dirt friends ariund Indy real soon.
  • I hope the Brickyard 400 fails and NASCAR stops going to IMS. Then let's see how long the pathetic Indy Reject League lasts without the Brickyard profits to prop it up.
  • It will die on the vine. And the sisters have spoken - ! no robbing peter to pay paul anymore Anton. You gitsta make this thing stand on its own.

    We all know it, Tony knows it, and everyone in the business knows it. The wheels are coming off and you have one guy to blame...FTG

    The IRL: Killing IMS
  • FWIW, I don't know that ticket sales are all that bad. Our request to upgrade our seats was denied, and when I went online to see if it indeed was true that the requested seats were not available, the seats I was seeking were not there. The walkup and scalper business might not be as good, but I think a lot of people still will come back. And while it would have been great for Smoke to come out and promote the fact the tires are right, I think the large group of drivers who were here would be quick to say if it wasn't.
  • Again, the IRL/TG haters show their true colors. They hate everything to do with west 16th street, and they want to see it go down in flames, no matter what it would do to the City, the State, and the businesses that rely on it. Truly sad that people would hate something so badly.

    My prediction is the Brickyard will draw around 200,000, NASCAR fans are a hardy bunch and will want to see there favorite drivers, regardless of what happened last year. The empty seats will be a combination of ticked off fair weather fans, the recession and the fact that NASCAR is facing over saturation. NASCAR may say their attendance is down 10%, but there seems to be a lot of empty seats at a lot of popular venues.

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