Saturday Night Blowout in Charlotte Dale Jr. and many others succumb to blown tires Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality 500 was a blowout in the truest sense, as tire issues caused a good majority of the 15 cautions and one red-flag period that ...
Saturday Night Blowout in Charlotte
Dale Jr. and many others succumb to blown tires
Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality 500 was a blowout in the truest sense, as tire issues caused a good majority of the 15 cautions and one red-flag period that plagued this race. With a levigated surface making speeds faster than ever at the 1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway, the heat build-up proved too much for many of the tires, leading to massive blowouts and a garage-full of wreckage. At least 13 drivers fell victim to popped tires, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose #8 Budweiser Chevrolet was in seventh place and climbing when its right-front tire came apart on lap 61, sending car and driver hard into the turn 1 wall. Dale Jr. was checked out and released from the infield care center with no injuries, but the damage to his car was terminal. He finished 42nd with only 61 laps completed and dropped to 20th in the point standings. Jimmie Johnson won the event, passing Joe Nemechek with nine laps to go and holding off Kurt Busch in a green-white-checkered finish to win. It is Johnson's fourth win in a row at LMS.
Starting 28th, Dale Jr. coolly chipped away at his deficit from the drop of the green flag, climbing 10 positions through the first 11 laps and surging into the top-10 by lap 27. Reporting the car was a bit tight but otherwise good, Junior called for no adjustments on a lap-32 pit stop, in which the Brew Crew put on four new "scuffed" tires. Twenty-six green-flag laps from that restart, the right-front tire on the Budweiser Chevy exploded down the front straightaway. Junior, in seventh place and turning laps quicker than the leaders when the blowout occurred, slammed into the wall. The damage was incurable, and the Brew Crew was handed its fifth DNF of the season.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
Did you have any indication that the tire was going down?
"Not at all. It just went "Bam!" when it blew out and "Bam!" when I hit the wall. It was loud, sounded like a shotgun going off. Hitting the wall that fast, it hurts, but I'm OK. I had a great car. Man, that thing was flying. We were going to have a great night. I'm just excited about next week and the rest of the year. That car was flying. It's a shame. That was a new car, and we were going to test it next week at Atlanta. I guess our plans have now changed, because the car's tore up. I just want to thank (crew chief) Tony (Eury) Jr. and the Bud crew. They gave me an awesome car. We were really running great, and I was really excited. I'm really trying hard to give my fans something to be happy about and something to look forward to."
What caused the tire failure?
"We're not sure. You never really know exactly what it is. My car was tight. We didn't have a lot of camber in the tires, so that really wasn't an issue. The track obviously has caused tire issues all weekend. And with the tightness in the car beating the right-front up, I guess it couldn't handle it."
With the track the way it is, how much concern was there going into this race?
"I was really concerned. After last night (with a track-record 14 cautions in the Busch Series race), everybody was having some tire problems, and having trouble getting a hold of the race track. We don't blow too many tires out because of camber issues and air pressure issues, so it's kind of odd for us to have this kind of trouble with our cars. I don't know, it happens. It's happened all year. I'm not the one to point the finger, and I wouldn't know where to point it anyways."
Best Radio Chatter:
Dale Jr. narrowly escaped early disaster on pit road following a lap-32 pit stop when the bobbing of cars in and out of their respective pit stalls nearly resulted in a multi-car collision. Junior made minor contact with one of the cars.
Dale Jr.: "What did I do to my left-front there? He stopped too damn short. (Pause) So how's the fender look?"
Tony Eury Jr. (crew chief): "Looks good. Tires look good, too."
Dale Jr.: "I'm just worried about my fender, because I want my car to drive good."
Tony Jr. (after taking another look as the Bud Chevy rolled by): "Yeah, you're cool. Definitely."
Dale Jr.: "How much box (or room in the box) did I have to my right?"
Tony Jr.: "How much box to the right? I'd say about a foot-and-a-half, wouldn't you say guys?"
Greg Osborne (car chief): "We'll check the tape."
Following the tire blowout and resulting wreck that put the Bud team out of the race, Dale Jr. offered a few works of encouragement to his team before climbing out of the car.
Dale Jr.: "Hey (Tony) Junior, thanks for this race car. It was hauling ass."
Tony Jr.: "The good thing is you're OK. We were fortunate the tire blew out where it did (on the straightaway rather than the turns).JKeep your head up."
As the car was being brought back to the garage and before the team was able to fully inspect the race car:
Jimmy Kitchens (spotter): "Hey guys, are we done or should I stay up here?"
Tony Jr: "We haven't taken a look, but I'd say we're done. Especially since we don't know what's goin' on with these tires, I'm not gonna send our cowboy back out there to get hurt. We need him healthy for the rest of these rodeos..."