Sunday, March 23, 2014

The bumpy California road of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

   Most Sprint Cup Series teams had no tire problems in Sunday's Auto Club 400, including race winner Kyle Busch. Several did - and there seemed just as many explanations for the issues as there were teams that experienced problems.

   The aging pavement at the 2-mile track has been credited for helping to produce an exciting style of racing in recent seasons, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes the root of tire problem may not rest with teams or Goodyear, but instead of some sizable bumps on the track.
   After Sunday's race, Earnhardt spoke at length about what he perceives as an issue with the California track.
   "To be honest with you, the back straightaway is very rough and I think the tire can’t handle the load that it goes through on that back straightaway. And it’s just tearing the tire up where the sidewall and tread are put together. There ain’t another race track on the circuit besides Kentucky that has bumps like that. They’re incredible huge, huge bumps. And I think that plays a big role in it because the tire must see astronomical loads through that section of the race track that it never sees any other time at any other circuit," he said.
   "So, I don’t think it’s good to cycle a tire through bumps like that. I think that’s why the tire comes apart. I think that’s why a left rear here and a left front there and it’s not air pressure and things like that. We’re moving air pressure around and it ain’t saving the tire. There’s bumps on the back straightaway that get worse and worse. They don’t need to pave the race track. Just pave the back straightaway. Not very cheap, but I’ll bet you won’t have any tire problems anymore.”
   Earnhardt was asked if the tire issue some teams experienced was a result of the cars coming off or running over the bumps on the track.
   “They show it in slow motion during practice all the time. Like the Nationwide guys, they were just banging through there and the cars are moving six to 10 inches in travel; and that’s ridiculous. We run these cars and work within sixteenths of an inch getting them around the race tracks. And for it to be going through that much movement, that many times through the back straightaway can’t be good for the tire. You’re just taking the tire and it’s like taking a piece of aluminum and just keep twisting it back and forth and it’s going to break in half," Earnhardt said.
   “The bumps are getting worse and worse and are too bad now. I don’t think it’s low air pressure. That doesn’t help when you get down too low. I imagine that Goodyear is going to look into that. But I’m telling you, the bumps back there and unlike any other thing we see. If they don’t tear the tire up, I don’t care that it’s bumpy. You just go through them and fix the track whenever you feel like fixing it. But, if it’s tearing the tires up and if that’s why, we need to look into it. Us, as a team, the team’s got to fix it all the time. It might be something fundamental like bumps on the race track there. They’re really bad on the back straightaway.
   “I feel bad for Goodyear. I think the tire is fine. I like the tire. It’s just those bumps. If you watch the cars go through there in slow motion, it shouldn’t be like that. And grinding them, they tried to grind them and they’re huge. You’d have to grind into the ground into the dirt to get those damn things to move."

Denny Hamlin to miss Sunday's race at Fontana

   It's become an unwelcome yearly visit to a California hospital.

   Less than 30 minutes before the start of Sunday Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin was being transported to a local hospital for vision problems related to a sinus infection.

   Hamlin will miss Sunday's race. Sam Hornish Jr., who runs a partial Nationwide Series schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing, will drive Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota in Sunday's race.

   One year ago, Hamlin was transported to a local hospital following the race after suffering a serious back injury in a last-lap wreck with Joey Logano.

Three observations heading into Sunday's NASCAR race at Fontana


   • Four different winners in as many races in the Sprint Cup series this season has suddenly added fuel to the idea there well could be 16 or more different winners in the first 26 races of the season, somehow diluting the idea a win all-but guarantees a berth in the Chase. Well, when was the last time this phenomenon happened? Uh, last season, when the year began with five different winners in the first five races. By race No. 26, there were still only 13 different winners. Rest easy, folks. Win and you’re in.

   • In four races so far this season, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has one top-five and two top-10 finishes, including a career-best second last weekend at Bristol, Tenn. In all of last season – his rookie year in Cup – Stenhouse had one top-five and three top-10s. Clearly, he is a good example of a driver making progress the more time he spends on the track.

   • Something I don’t quite understand: Each time Fox broadcasts knockout qualifying sessions it typically ends up about 12-15 minutes behind live action simply because it insists on showing every minute of on-track action in each round. Yet on race day – which is far more relevant than qualifying – the network has no problem breaking away from live action in the race in order to run commercial breaks. What gives?

Read more here: