Bizarre garage incident latest in Busch-Goodyear chapter – Nascar
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HAMPTON, Ga. — Goodyear and driver Kyle Busch seem to be inextricably linked in the news fodder of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, and that continued to be the case Sunday morning at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
An errant step by a fan in the garage sent oil spilling onto two tires of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, necessitating a trip to the Goodyear building where the tires were washed and, after careful inspection, returned to the team.
“It’s unfortunate, but look around,” crew chief Adam Stevens said, noting the crowded garage area full of race fans and team personnel. “The tires seem to be fine, no issues there, hopefully, so we should be OK.”
This year, teams are required to start the race on the tires used during qualifying and at an abrasive track such as Atlanta, the fewer the laps on tires, the quicker the lap times. Teams have two fewer sets at their disposal compared to last season for today’s 325-lap race, the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
Jimmy Makar, senior vice president of racing operations for JGR, wasn’t aware of the situation when asked Sunday morning, but seemed convinced the team would be required and able to start the race on the qualifying tires and would not be provided an additional set to replace those on which the oil had spilled.
Stu Grant, general manager of global race tires for Goodyear, said the tires were cleaned with “mild soap and water, that type of thing.”
“You don’t want to put solvent on it because the rubber will absorb the solvent,” he said.
Busch will start third for today’s race. He won Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race, the Rinnai 250, only to learn later that his car had failed post-race technical inspection due to a height violation.
“Maybe they should have checked the air pressure in the front tires first,” Busch quipped after being told of the infraction.
The 2015 Monster Energy Cup Series champion was involved in a crash in last week’s season-opening Daytona 500 that was the result of a tire going down.
“You know, obviously Goodyear tires just aren’t very good at holding air,” an upset Busch said after the incident. “It’s very frustrating when we have that down here every single year we’ve been here.”
Asked about Goodyear’s post-race analysis of the team’s Daytona tires, Grant said there was nothing to indicate that a tire going down caused Busch to crash.
“That would appear to be the case,” he said. “But Kyle is a professional race car driver and he spun for some reason; he felt something.”
Grant said Goodyear officials studied the two rear Daytona tires at the company’s headquarters in Akron, Ohio, and viewed video provided by FOX, which aired the Daytona 500, as well as video obtained from NASCAR.
A flat spot was found on the right rear, and that only occurs when a tire has air in it, it’s spinning and then locked up, according to Grant.
“The video from FOX showed that,” he said. “The car is spinning and the right rear is definitely up.”
Grant believes that after spinning and sliding off the steep banking, the right rear was flat-spotted all the way through, which caused the air loss.
He said no cuts were found on the left rear tire based on research analysis, and the NASCAR video verified that the tire was up when Busch’s car began to spin.
“The left rear is up until he is hit by the 77 (of Erik Jones),” Grant said. “The 77 knocks the tire off the flange, it loses air and then the tire gets folded over and that’s how we found it. The tire was folded in half at the center line but again it did not have a cut.”