Tony, tires, Danica make news

July 28, 2008
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The big stories in the world of motorsports have been coming at such a high rate of speed, it’s been difficult to keep up.

The long weekend kicked off with Tony Stewart getting into an altercation with a U.S. Auto Club official at O’Reilly Raceway Park Thursday night. The incident was caught by a WTHR-TV Channel 13 FanCam, and aired repeatedly by ESPN over the weekend. Friday, an apologetic Stewart emerged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Stewart was there to unveil his new No. 14 Chevrolet, which he will drive next year. I’m sure his sponsors loved the mixed message.

A strong contingent of fans gathered in Edmonton to watch the Indy Racing League race there Saturday. It looks like a solid IRL market going forward. Scott Dixon won, but fans likely found several sub-plots more interesting. First, Marco Andretti took out his Andretti Green Racing teammate Danica Patrick, who was waving her fist even before she exited the car. After the race, Michael Andretti called a behind-closed-doors meeting for his drivers and team principals. Rumors have begun to circulate that AGR driver Tony Kanaan may look to go elsewhere next year. Meanwhile, Canada’s favorite son, Paul Tracy, shocked much of the racing world by emerging from a long hibernation to take fourth at Edmonton. Fans at the track, not surprisingly, went crazy, sparking speculation that a sponsorship package could come together to put Tracy on the track for the remainder of the IRL season, or at least for some of the races.

IRL and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chairman Tony George was having a pretty good weekend until Sunday, when the Brickyard 400 nightmare unfolded. Last minute and walk-up ticket sales weren’t what IMS officials hoped for, and the crowd at the Speedway for the annual NASCAR race was noticeably down from years past. And the disjointed race with numerous yellow flags due to tire problems fans witnessed yesterday won’t help sell tickets for next year. Naturally, IMS officials deflected criticism to NASCAR and its tire supplier, Goodyear. And certainly, NASCAR’s new, heavier car is partly to blame. But motorsports insiders said with two serious tire issues—including the Formula One fiasco of 2005—in recent years, it’s time for Speedway officials to re-examine their track surface.

So tell us, do you think Tony George should be smiling or frowning today? And which of this weekend’s developments will have the biggest, long-term impact on the local racing scene?
  • Anton should be upset, but he likely has that moronic, far-away dim grin as usual.
    What he should do - fold the 'league' immediately, and concentrate on facility management, which was the only thing he has been good at. Now even that is questionable. Of course, he won't do that. Maybe he will start a stock car 'league'. Ha.

    The CoT sled is not heavier than the previous cab.

    Maybe the France family will finally get their hands on IMS and put up steeper banking. It would be worth it to see the wailing from the gomerati.

    Ideally, FTG and Nascar will blame each other over this to the point that there is no more Nascar race at IMS. That would be truly hysterical.
  • Not funny, Stan, just flat out rude.
  • Let's keep in perspective how many races have been run at the track without incident (all series). Never mind that 14 NASCAR events went off without a hitch. Let us also not forget that there were 6 cars using other tires during the F1 event that had no failure issues, it was just the Michelin's that failed.

    What I'm getting at, is it is definitely the tire and the car that are the issue, and not the track surface. The track surface is maintained, but other than modification of the track for NASCAR several years back, it's not much different than in the past recent history.

    You prepare for and race at the track, which is almost always the same. A car/tire engineering oversight in your next-gen vehicle is not the responsibility of IMS. I don't follow NASCAR, but I recall hearing on the news this morning that this isn't the first issue with NASCAR Goodyear tires this year, just the first of this magnitude.

    Tony shouldn't sweat this at all, IMS is fine.
  • You race the track, the idiots new they were getting a new car. They new what tires they were brining and guess what, the surface hasn't changed! Goodyear should be banned from selling tires in Marion County, but of course we could police ourselves and just not buy them. My Firestones take care of me everyday!!
  • Firestone seems to be more than capable of handling any track the IRL throws at them (or Formula 1/Bridgestone for that matter). Maybe Nascar should give them a call. You would think that for the second biggest race of the year they would have ran a full test. I also don't recall problems with the previous 14 Brickyard races. This is not IMS's fault. Obviously Nascar/Goodyear did not have a handle on the COT and behavior of the tires. Shame on both of them.
  • Mark P.,
    Let's not kid ourselves, the Brickyard 400 is not the 2nd biggest race of the year, in the eyes of NASCAR and it's fans, for the NASCAR season. It may be in the eyes of Indianapolis racing fans, but not the rest of NASCAR and it's fans across the nation. Daytona 500 first (obviously), Talladega, Bristol, and more... these can be argued what order they should go in... but Indianapolis is not even up there for NASCAR. 14 races and just because of a legacy with IndyCar, doesn't automatically pop it to the top of NASCAR.
    I do agree with you on everything else though. This is not IMS' fault... this is the fault of Goodyear and NASCAR. The IMS does not need to worry about this.
  • Hey Zappatista, learn how to spell! I always new you were an idiot! Oh, and thanks for nothing NASCAR and Goodyear. Quite the product you put out there yesterday. Top notch! Way to respect the Capital! Next year, do your homework....
  • I'm definitely not a NASCAR race fan and Sunday's COT/Tire debacle made me laugh. IMS is not an ideal place for these over-decaled taxis - even with good tires. I love how NASCAR has all the drivers on such a short leash they cannot speak out against the bozo-designed COT racer or how badly Goodyear screwed up the tire selection. You'd think, with all their $$$ and ratings going down, NASCAR would have had the foresight to ensure Goodyear specs the right tires for the Brickyard. I do feel really bad for all the fans who turned out to watch this silly circus of 10-lap circles.
  • Andrew,

    What in the world are you thinking? Besides Daytona the two largest and most influential races are Indy and Charlotte, both in the eyes of the drivers, the league and the racing community. Where else can they go to attract a quarter of a million fans for one day? The answer is: none of their tracks, even Daytona. Indy put NASCAR on the national map of acceptance, not Daytona nor anywhere else for that matter.
  • neither TG nor IMS is responsible for this problem. Same track conditions as in 2005, 06 and 07. Supposedly same type of tire. Only difference, is the Cof T. Puts more weight on the right side which is what was failing. Fault goes to the crew chiefs for not making Indy a tire test site, Goodyear for not recognizing an issue with the limited testing in April and NASCAR for not paying closer to the problem. It is the largest NASCAR race in attendance, bar none and, if you ask the drivers one of the most important.
  • Maybe I should have clarified... the Brickyard 400 may be the largest race in attendance... but just because the track has more seating. If you really think that the Brickyard 400 means more, in the NASCAR world, than the Daytona 500 you are crazy and blinded by your support of Indy and the IMS. I support Indy and am an Indianapolis native, but still see reality. Just because the venue has more seats, does not mean the Brickyard 400 has more meaning and popularity than the other NASCAR races that have been around and have NASCAR racing history behind them. Yeah, the IMS has history... but it's IndyCar history.
    And I hate to break it to you, Indy is not what put NASCAR in the limelight of racing on a national level. Great marketing of NASCAR is what did that.
  • Everyone is pretty quick to remove blame from Tony George. If Tony is the racing expert he should be, shouldn't he have foreseen the tire problem, and shouldn't he have insisted on, if not an open test, than certainly a test with more than a handful of drivers and cars. Tony certainly should have been aware that the cars were heavier this year, and should have been able to project that there could be potential difficulties given the history of his diamond-ground track. I don't recall any mention anywhere of Tony making this kind of plea to NASCAR or its tire manufacturer. That's because it didn't happen. Tony was blindsided the same as NASCAR and Goodyear, and should share in the blame.
  • Given the downforce and higher cornering speed, an IRL tire sees similar vertical and lateral loads as a COT tire, with higher contact surface speeds, yet reliably lasts thirty plus laps at IMS. I think someone from the IMS or IRL needs to give NASCAR Firestone's telephone number.
    I will applaud NASCAR and Goodyear for fighting to put on the show with what was available rather than take the Michelin approach of giving up!
  • OK, Andrew, here you go, a quote in today's Star from Matt Kenseth, This is one of the two biggest races of the year. Oh, so we're to assume you are a better source of knowledge than one of NASCAR's better competitors?

  • It's no coincidence that the F-1 and NASCAR tire fiascos happened at IMS. They continue to diamond grind the track to make the crapwagons stick better and the whole facility needs overhauled and the track needs repaved- smooth, like a real race track!!!!
  • Brett, you have no clue. NASCAR and F-1 wouldn't have agreed to run at IMS if your presumption was correct. First of all, they are unrelated, secondly, the insiders have seen the difficulty of the COT and what particular compound of tire Goodyear provided. Even thought IMS was available for testing, NASCAR only sent 3 drivers and cars to do so, and at the time, the track temperature was much, much lower. The fault is not with IMS, but rather the lack of attention from NASCAR and Goodyear to the combination of the track, COT, tire compounds, and the high temperatures during the race.
  • Berwick guy: Your yellow shirt is ready, go to the IMS Museum and pick it up after you pay your dollar to get in. All of the money collected at the Museum goes into the Lord Sagamore rehab fund.

    You have no idea what you are talking about other than NASCAR should have tested more. Goodyear has been trying to get IMS to do something about the abrasiveness of the surface since they ground it - they say it is the most abrasive paved surface in professional racing.
  • Sir Brett,

    Nice sarcasm; that seems to be the way of the old CHAMP CAR guard. But in the stead of professionalism and with all due respect, consider this: Firestone has never had a problem with the IMS surface and, more importantly, Goodyear has raced on that same, unchanged surface three times.

    You can try to lay the blame on IMS all you want. But, it won't stick. As I said before, look at Goodyear and then NASCAR's decision to tighten up on testing. Would those same drivers that experienced the problems on Sunday have preferred to test here prior to the race? Of course, but they didn't get the chance because of NASCAR's boneheaded decisions.

    While you have a hissy fit over Tony George and the IMS, just remember that what helped bring open wheel racing to its knees is money, and that same thing is beginning to happen with NASCAR.
  • Brett,

    If true, then why has NASCAR not made an ultimatum to IMS to repave? The cars have run the last couple of years with no problems, why do you think the problems have popped up in the first year of the CofT and the first year Goodyear did not run tire tests here? If Goodyear really thought Indy's track is an issue, wouldn't they have made sure they ran test to make sure they did not have problems?

    If you feel Berwickguy is looking for a yellow shirt, then you surely are living in an old c<rt/owrs/ccws car hauler watching vhs tapes of the US 500. You know, the cars and the stars.
  • Many sources are reporting that NASCAR has requested that IMS to repave, I believe everyone has read TG's idiotic response it's a NASCAR problem. Some track owner he is...

    Goodyear and NASCAR are not innocent, NASCAR should have mandated more testing at IMS and they should have required the teams to use straight axles instead of the crab walk set up on the COT. NASCAR talked about it on Friday after practice but didn't have the cajones to follow through.

    I would watch the US 500 or any CART race at Michigan before I would walk across the street to see rev limited crap wagons playing follow the leader....
  • berwick guy:

    I guess I missed the announcement on the Firestone NASCAR tire. The COT is twice as heavy and has a ton less downforce than the crapwagon. That's why you won't see Danica in NASCAR and why Sam the Sham Hornish is 34th in points, the COT actually has to be driven, it's not stuck to the track.

    The only thing that brought OW to it's knees was the actions of a spoiled little brat, Anton George and greedy owners like Penske and Ganassi along with the dullards that follow the Hulman- George cabal like lemmings off a cliff...
  • berwick guy,
    Yeah, Matt Kenseth's quote is like asking a rock band on tour, while they're in the city, where they like to play the most... any PR response will be this... I love [insert city name here] and [insert city name here] is the best place to play and perform. Same for drivers... most have PR people and most drivers know the PR responses... sometimes they use them and sometimes they don't, but most of the time they do.
    Ask Matt Kenseth an open-ended question of, What races are the most important during the NASCAR season?... and ask him this question at the end of the season or the beginning of the season when he is not in Indianapolis... and you won't get Indianapolis in his responset.
    So, the quote of Matt Kenseth giving a typical PR answer to the local media when he is in the host city means nothing to me... and shouldn't to anyone who has any common sense.

  • Brett and Andrew:

    That Indy is the second most important NASCAR event is fact in the eyes of many, not conjecture. Apparently, I struck a nerve or two. However, you two, especially Brett, seem to take your discussions to the lowest common denominator, name calling and cheap shots.

    I only attempted to offer an opinion as this format encourages. To continue to offer counter points is productive, but to revert to your brand of discussion is inappropriate and unprofessional. We should all try to debate or discuss in an uplifting manner.

    Give it a try sometime.
  • Brett,

    A quote from today's news:

    I can't say how sorry we are. There's nothing wrong with the (track) surface, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said in a national teleconference. Obviously, we didn't go there with the right car and tire combination. I wouldn't ask them to change that surface. It's up to us to do a better job when we get there next year.

    I suppose you'll excuse this as pandering. Oh, well......
  • I'm not coming down on either side here, but it is worth pointing out Carl Edwards' post-Brickyard 400 comment. The way I see it, we're just renting space. This is Indy's deal.
    I think something stinks about this deal all the way around if you ask me.
  • berwickguy,
    Don't lump me in with Brett... if you re-read my posts, I never insulted you directly. The Choke... comment was copying what you put on your previous post to me. Unless you take my last comment of common sense and assumed I directed it at you, I didn't do any name calling and cheap shots... but, if you thought it was directed at you, then you must feel it applies to you if you're taking it personally. What I'm trying say is, quit crying, it's just a blog... I didn't call you stupid or curse at you... so, get over it. And obviously from you trying to say we're going to the lowest common denominator ... it's not mine or Brett's nerve that was struck, seems to be your nerve that was struck.
    I'm done posting about this... anyone that's into NASCAR (and not just into NASCAR during the last weekend of July) knows Indy isn't up there in the important race category for NASCAR.
    But I do like the Carl Edwards quote posted by Merv... seems Carl is saying what I've been trying to tell you... kind of proves you wrong, berwickguy, since you like to take everything that someone says on camera (or to the newspaper) to heart.
  • Goodyear officials said that the combination of the Indy track surface and NASCAR's new car caused the tires to wear quickly and that they'll look into the problem. Obviously, the tread wear didn't improve as we thought it would for the first of the afternoon, Goodyear spokesman Greg Stucker said. Actually we don't have the answer as far as why that didn't happen, so we've got to go back and look at that and try to figure out how to make it better. He noted this was the same compound that teams used in this event a year ago

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