Saturday, August 02, 2008

Talk about tires brings out some interesting details

LONG POND, Pa. -- I had an interesting discussion today with Stu Grant, the general manager of global race tires for Goodyear, about what happened in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard last Sunday.

Grant and Goodyear issued a statement Saturday morning explaining the steps Goodyear will take to figure out what happened to the right-rear tires in the race at Indianapolis and its plans to see that it doesn't happen again. He then came on Sirius NASCAR Radio's "Press Pass," which I co-hosted with Steve Post, to talk about that release and about last weekend.

I was having a conversation with Grant on the radio and wasn't taking notes, but some of the things he said stuck with me.

For instance, he said Goodyear has looked at what went into the tires it build for Indianapolis and found nothing out of the ordinary. Grant said Goodyear has confirmed that the compound used this year was the same as the one used last year at the Brickyard. That means nothing was mixed improperly or left out of the process. Grant said Goodyear even went so far as going to the suppliers of the elements used in the tire construction process to see if those suppliers had changed anything from a year ago. Nothing out of the ordinary was found.

So if the tire was the same, the obvious next step is to figure out what was different. The clear answer to that is the car, since this year was the first time the "car of tomorrow" was used at Indianapolis.

What Goodyear has found so far is that drivers went into Indy's four 90-degree turns in a completely different way in this new car. Grant said drivers were pitching the car into the corner and then sliding the right-rear tire as they tried to get the new car to turn.

That's important because it basically changed the direction in which the tire was going through the turn. Instead of having the contact patch of the tire riding along with the grain of the grooves in the track's diamond ground surface, the tire was basically sliding across those grooves on the diagonal. Grant said that may be why the tire was turning into a fine powder instead of coming off in the kind of small pellets that would stick to the track off the previous car.

Goodyear is working with a company with expertise in computer modeling to see if the interaction between the tire and the track can be reconstructed in a model. Potential changes to the tire could then be tested in greater detail against that same model.

How do you make the tires react differently to the track?

Well, one idea could be to add something to the tire -- a resin, perhaps -- that would be stickier as it comes off the tire.

In the bigger picture, though, the solution could be making the tires bigger or wider (or both) so that it will hold more air. In general terms, the more air in the tire the more forces it can withstand. If you make bigger tires, of course, you have to made adjustments to the race car. So before Goodyear did that it would have to work with NASCAR and the Cup teams to make that work.

The one thing fans should know is that Grant never once tried to shirk responsibility for the problems at Indy. He said it's Goodyear's job as NASCAR's tire supplier to figure out how to build tires that will work on the car that NASCAR is now using in the Cup Series, and promised that's what the company will keep trying to do.


Anonymous said...

OK - it sounds like Goodyear is off to a good start in the post-Brickyard 400 analysis. Those were some very important findings you just described, and we're only one week out from the race.

Nobody is questioning Goodyear's desire to ensure that what happened last Sunday won't happen again. Nobody is skeptical about their ability to do so either.

They "share our disappointment." They "take their responsibility seriously." They'll "get to the bottom of it."

But are they sorry? I guess we don't know yet because apparently they're still analyzing that...

Unknown said...

sounds like they're all over it.

Sounds like they're going to have to 'trick up' the compound in order to manufacture the "rubbering in" process rather than it just happening as it always has....

While kudos need to go out to Goodyear for looking in that direction, Nascar really needs to step in and question the car's culpability here. I hope everyone teams up here and focuses on the disease and not just the symptoms.

and on anon's wish for goodyear to say sorry....why? would that help make that race better in some way? People really need to stop focusing on demanding apologies from wrongdoers and look instead at what they're doing to avoid doing wrong in the future.

Monkeesfan said...

So if Goodyear makes a wider tire, it begs the question - why couldn't they do that with the "old" car? Moreover, how come Goodyear couldn't have figured out that the drivers were pitching the car into the turns differently based on what they'd seen in previous COT races?

Any way you slice it, Goodyear screwed up and the COT comes out as a failure.

Anonymous said...

so, goodyear's doing post-fiasco analysis and coming up with possible problem areas that need to be addressed. that's great.

and nascar is doing . . . ? wait, remind me again of what nascar is doing? hmmm.

see, to me, the problem isn't the track and likely isn't even the tires. it's that damn brick of a car! grant's supposition that drivers are driving the corners differently than with the old car is spot on! they HAVE to drive differently b/c the car they're stuck with this year isn't performing well at all. we're all behind nascar improving the safety features of the cars and i applaud the work that's been accomplished. but the car just does not drive well and the racing is poor across all kinds of tracks. i was at long pond this weekend the the lack of QUALITY passing was appalling.

before doing anything else like running in the rain, how about fix the problems with the car that's being run and return it to a car that can be raced!

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like goodyear is doing all they can to keep NASCAR happy when the COT might in fact be the real culprit. How ironic that the industry muzzle was put in place right before this latest mess. I wonder if that's why everyone kept saying "I'm so proud of NASCAR, they did all they could.." blah, blah, blah. How about re-examining the COT?

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the Indy tire problem might have been avoided if Goodyear had done more extensive testing than it did OR if NASCAR had listened to Robert Yates in the mid-1990's and downsized the Cup engines. Also I do not recall having seen anyone say whether or not the tires in this year's Indy tire tests did throw off dust as they did in the race. Did the tires in the test act differently or did no one pay attention to how the tires were reacting to the track at Indy?

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