Tire Failures Impact Many Teams At California

2009 Daytona 500 071

(WOMR file photo)

Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway produced a massive number of tire failures, as Goodyear Eagles exploded with shocking regularity from the opening  laps until the end of the race!  Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Clint Bowyer were among the top drivers who saw their chances of winning the Auto Club 400 explode because of tire failures.

However, most of the drivers weren’t pointing the finger at Goodyear as the source of the problem. Nevertheless, the drivers and crew chiefs pointed to changes with the cars, and how they are set up for 2014. Last year, NASCAR loosened rules on how much air pressure the teams must run in their tires and how much camber (a vertical alignment of the wheels of a road vehicle with positive camber signifying that the wheels are closer together at the bottom than at the top) they can run in their set up.

To further explain camber let’s look at the car from the front end.  These race cars are set up with camber in all four wheels.  Looking from the front, the left front tire is slanted so as to look like, and rightfully so, that the only tire contact with the road is on the very outside rib of the tire while it is going down the straight-away.  However in the highly banked corners that camber allows contact with entire tire flat surface and the racing surface.  Thus giving the suspension “more surface grip”.  The right front tire, because of the camber introduced to that wheel appears to making contact with only the very inside rib of the tire on level ground.  However, in the turn the entire tire surface is making contact with the entire racing surface.  The same would hold true for the rear tire setup.

This year, NASCAR also increased downforce with a new and larger rear spoiler!

Additionally, some teams got very aggressive by running extremely low air pressures on left-side tires, 11 pounds per square inch in some cases, vs. the Goodyear recommendation of 22 psi, and equally aggressive camber.  Again, camber is defined as how much the tire slants away from vertical when viewing it from the front or back. Lower air pressures combined with aggressive camber make for extremely fast speeds.   Even though the combination of aggressive camber and low tire pressures maximizes speed, however the negative part of that equation is that combination greatly increases the risk of catastrophic tire failure, which is what happened again and again and again on Sunday.

“Last year we opened up the rules on camber for the rear end,” added Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition and racing development. “I would say that a year ago at this time we were early in the process, and teams were probably not as aggressive as they wound up being as the season unfolded, as they got the mechanics better in their cars and the opportunity to be able to make parts and pieces live longer. Now, I think they’re probably a little bit better prepared for that. So if they had too much camber — they’ve got a lot of choices, so if they had too much and it abused the tire, that’s what happens.”

Asked by FOXSports.com if he thought the tire failures were a Goodyear problem, Pemberton was clear. “No,” Pemberton said. “We’ve talked to Goodyear. We have asked, the competitors have asked to bring more aggressive tires, to bring tires that they need to manage and want to — how they use them and how they get the most out of them. At this point in time, I think Goodyear, it’s the same tire that we’ve run on in the past. Just the car is a little bit different.”(FoxSports)

So it appears that the word out on the track is for the crews to better manage their suspension setup, with tire pressures and camber, in order to minimize the number of catastrophic tire failures that have occurred in the past few weeks at the race track!


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