Tires an Early Issue at New Hampshireby Kyle Pokrefky July 13, 2014
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images
LOUDON, N.H. — Tire woes struck various members of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage early into Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The issues seen in the practices leading up to the race that effected Joey Logano (Team Penske) and Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports) were experienced once again in the early goings of Sunday’s race.
As was the case at the Auto Club Speedway early in the year, many teams were taking liberties with the amount of tire pressure in their Goodyear Eagles – specifically with their rear tires. Both Logano and Almirola’s left-rear tires would go down in practice, causing both drivers to lose their cars and go to backups for today’s Camping World RV Sales 301. The blame for the tire issues should not be laid at Goodyear’s feet as Goodyear brought the same tire compound to New Hampshire this weekend that they had brought to the track since 2012.
The issues would begin within the first five laps when Greg Biffle (Roush-Fenway Racing) would experience a fender rub on one of his rear tires, risking an early blowout. Television replays showed that the No. 16 NESN 30th Anniversary Ford may have made light contact with the wall resulting in the tire rub – suggesting that the smoke seen coming from the car was more from contact rather than a setup related issue. Biffle’s team would eventually pull the fender away from the tire and would rally to a 15th-place finish.
Hendrick Motorsports would receive the brunt of the issues with the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson suffering a flat left-rear on Lap 8. Johnson would lose a lap while pitting to replace the left-rear tire but would briefly return to the track before blowing out another left-rear tire on Lap 14, sending the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet into a spin and into the wall in Turns 1 and 2. The three-time Loudon winner would climb out of his wrecked race car under his own power and would take the mandatory trip to the infield medical center before leaving Loudon with a 42nd-place finish.
Johnson stated after he checked out of the medical center that he doesn’t believe that low tire pressures factored into his early retirement.
“I don’t know why the first one went down, let alone the second one,” Johnson said. “I know there has been speculation about teams having too low of tire pressure, the left rear causing that. I promise you it wasn’t our case. The first one went, and there could have been damage that caused the second one to go so quickly and explode like it did. But I’m just purely speculating. It was very unfortunate. I had a great car, obviously running very good. I guess I get an early start to my vacation this way.”
Johnson’s teammate, Jeff Gordon, would also have an issue with his tires during his race as crew chief Alan Gustafson would note that the right-rear tire on the No. 24 car was nearly flat as the team would come in for pit service before Lap 100. Gustafson would remedy the issue for his driver as Gordon would not experience any further issues with his Goodyears throughout the rest of the race. Gordon would ultimately finish in the 26th position.
Goodyear’s Greg Stucker would issue a brief statement regarding the issues ravaging their tires early in the race and in practice on Friday and Saturday: “The tires failed in a manner consistent with low inflation pressure.”