The Subjects of Tires and Tire Testing on Many Drivers' Minds in Dover

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer ISeptember 25, 2009

LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 19:  Tires are set out in the garage area during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Heluva Good! 200 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2009 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR's tire company of choice, Goodyear, has received much criticism and praise since it has been in the sport and Friday at the Dover International Speedway, it was no different. 

The tires on a racecar are going to play a major role in not only determining a race, but how that race can play out over the course of 500 miles.

This weekend, the Sprint Cup Series is at Dover and drivers know they need all four tires—good tires—on their car to keep them from being snatched up by Miles the Monster. 

But upon arriving at the speedway, teams were under the impression that Goodyear had brought a completely different tire than what several drivers had worked with during a tire test at the track. 

The tire that was being used for Sunday's race was a combination that had been tested during the tire test and was suggested by Jimmie Johnson. 

Denny Hamlin, already in a sour mood just from being at Dover, didn't know this and was visibly upset. "There was a tire test here, and from what I hear they didn't bring back the tire that everyone liked, again. Same as Atlanta." 

He went on to explain that this Sunday, fans shouldn't be surprised to see drivers sliding around on the tires and once again referenced the Atlanta race. 

"They [Goodyear] won't listen to us drivers," he said in his news conference. "So, I don't even know why we [do] tire tests at these race tracks."

Hamlin did say that he doesn't believe that a driver that does a tire test has an advantage because nine out of 10 times, Goodyear always brings a different tire for the race, one that no one tested. He then said, "It ends up just being terrible, I think it's just crap." 

Earlier that morning, Jimmie Johnson said that he felt that they needed to test at the tracks they would be racing on and most importantly, with the tire they would be racing with. 

But it was Greg Biffle that joined the media after the first practice session that raised the best points. Biffle talked about the tires and the tire testing, saying that he felt that the drivers that got to participate in the tire test had an advantage come race weekend. 

Biffle also referenced how his car was very loose in practice and about the time that was lost as they tried to get the car right, while Johnson was quick right off the bat.

"You're scrambling to get going and it's obvious that the guy that wasn't scrambling to get going was the 48 [Johnson]," he said. "They were at the top of the sheet right from the onset but they were the ones that did the tire test."

Jimmie Johnson was one of the drivers that participated in the tire test for Dover, he's also a Chase driver and not the only Chase driver that participated in the test, something that Biffle said he was told wasn't going to take place. 

"We've been told they're not going to pick Chase guys to test for tires for the last 10 races because it'll make an impact," Biffle noted. "And the 48 was picked to come here and test and pick a tire." 

"I think it's a benefit to get to do the tire test. I do agree with Denny [Hamlin] to some degree that they don't always pick the tire that you want them or the tire that we think is the best," he said. 

"I think it's an advantage to be at the race track and to getting an idea or a feel for what they might change to." 

It does raise questions about what Goodyear's thoughts are. Why spend the time to test tires that aren't going to see racing? The point of tire tests are to have drivers that are going to be in the race go out and work to find a tire that will put on the best race possible (we all remember Indianapolis) and want to avoid that.

During the Friday practice sessions it was clear that Jimmie Johnson learned something from the test because he was the fastest car on the track as soon as he rolled off pit road. At one point, he was two miles per hour faster than the second place driver on the speed chart. 

Why was Johnson in the tire test when Goodyear said no Chase driver would tire test at Chase tracks? There's already the no testing ban in NASCAR and still being able to tire test is much needed, but drivers seem to now have found a way to carry that testing over to race weekend. 

In the past we've heard that drivers can't take much from tire testing and apply in their racecars because all they're doing is just playing with different tire combinations. But, these are well prepared NASCAR teams, they will find a way to translate tire testing to an advantage and as Biffle pointed out, it's showing. 

Where's the equality for the rest of the Chase drivers that didn't get to test? 

Besides Johnson, fellow Chaser Juan Pablo Montoya, along with Marcos Ambrose, participated in the Dover test and they, too, were very solid in the first practice session. Montoya was in the top five on the speed charts and Ambrose was in the top 20 by the end of the session. 

Johnson and Montoya qualified on the front row for Sunday's race.


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