Busch battered after tire failure in Texas

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What is all going on in Texas heading into tonights running of the Sprint Cup event?

Kurt Busch was riding the wave of last Sunday’s Martinsville Speedway win -- until his left tire blew 19 circuits into a 20-lap practice run on Friday.

While several drivers expressed dread entering Texas Motor Speedway, after a dozen cars experienced problems with tires at Auto Club Speedway two weeks ago, Busch’s tires showed “no indication” of wear during the runs prior to his wreck. According to Busch, the tire “just started to separate in the middle of the back straightaway”.

“We were just trying to get a gauge on our tires and it didn’t make it to the 20-lap mark,” said Busch, who will go to a backup car. “Shame on us I guess for trying to go 20 laps in practice. We needed more rubber on the track. We needed more from the Nationwide cars.

“We tried to stretch the envelope. Maybe some of the confidence from last week just rolled over some of the steps that you’re supposed to take – low air pressures, low left-side ride heights – and that left side tire couldn’t take a 20-lap run.

Busch’s car was “handling well” and he experienced “even wear” on his tires up until that point, but “the left outer edge right where the side wall attaches to the tread, you see stress”. Still, Busch didn’t know whether the failure was caused by low air or too much camber. Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of race tire sales, said the company’s “initial assessment is air loss due to over-deflection in the sidewall area”. However, Goodyear was planning a follow up with the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team to ascertain a complete diagnosis.

Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: General Motors

Although this is the same left-side tire combination that Goodyear has used at Texas Motor Speedway since 2011, this is a notoriously fast mile-and-a-half track where drivers have suffered blow-outs before. Not surprisingly, four-time champion Jeff Gordon expressed trepidation a week earlier at Martinsville.

“I think we will see issues there,” Gordon said. “We saw issues there last year. I think as a team we are already looking at things that we were doing last year that we can look at trying to improve as far as abusiveness on the tires for Texas.

“My question is did Goodyear test there? Because from what I understand they didn’t test in California and I think that that was obviously a mistake. Because I think some of those things may have shown up in that test. Did they test in Texas and if they didn’t then I hope they have a back-up plan because I do think that we are going to have some issues there.”

Busch experienced a similar issue after 17 laps in Happy Hour at Auto Club Speedway two weeks ago, but “lucked out” and saved the primary car. After Goodyear spoke with crew chief Daniel Knost, the team made the necessary adjustments and finished third.

“The speeds are high and the left side tires are the question,” Busch said. “At Fontana, I was able to limp it back. This time it blew and I wrecked. So now we’re really far behind with a backup car. We didn’t think we had much of a problem and so we have to gauge our notes off the other Stewart-Haas cars,’’ Busch said. Then show others what you did so they don’t run into trouble.

“We’ll see what the backup has in it. We have a nice practice tomorrow. That’s the good news. Crap happens.”

SOLDIERING ON

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: James Holland

After the loss of Jimmie Johnson’s brother-in-law on March 30th, the six-time champion returned to competition on Friday. Jordan Janway, the brother of Johnson’s wife Chandra, died after a parachuting accident on Sunday in San Diego County. Johnson expressed his gratitude for the outpouring of support at Texas Motor Speedway prior to first practice on Friday.

“I appreciate the opportunity to say thank you to everybody for your thoughts and prayers,” Johnson said. “This week has been a very difficult week for the Janway family. It’s been so tough for me to sit back and watch the people I love so much deal with so much pain.

“But, things are progressing and everybody is as good as you could hope. Last night, the family spent a lot of time telling stories about Jordan and smiling a little bit; smiling more than tears, and the healing process has definitely started.

“So, I just wanted to come in and make a brief comment before we got busy with racing. And then, try to switch my mind into this racing reality and focus the next couple of days and go racing and try to win a race.”

Not long after his appearance, Johnson jumped in his car and posted the fastest lap in practice – 193.237mph.

GENERATION NEXT

Chase Elliott earned his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

Elliott took the point from Kevin Harvick on Lap 184 with a masterful pass coming through Turn 4 and led final 16 circuits.

Elliott, the 18-year-old son of NASCAR Cup champion Bill Elliott, became the second youngest winner on the tour and the first rookie to win at TMS. He now leads the NNS point standings by two markers over his JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith.

Lee Spencer

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Special feature
Tags goodyear, goodyear eagle, kurt busch, martinsville, nascar cup, rubber , straightaway, texas motor speedway, winners