Originally created 06/13/05

Drivers infuriated by tire blowouts



LONG POND, Pa. - NASCAR's rules that essentially ended the practice of shifting on the mile-long straightaway were considered a success because only one car in Sunday's Pocono 500 had engine or transmission failure.

Now the sanctioning body needs to work on tires.

There was a rash of flat tires around the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway. There were at least 22 blowouts - mostly of left-front tires - including six for Ricky Rudd, three for Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart and two each for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Scott Riggs.

Rick Heinrich, product manager for stock car racing for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., said the problems were likely the result of several factors, including exotic setups, the rumple strips on the inside of all three turns, a couple of patches in the second turn and 90-degree weather.

There was such a concern for tires, NASCAR ordered engineers from Goodyear to its hauler after the race.

"They brought the wrong left-side tires," Riggs said. "They brought the Las Vegas tires. You have to run them with such low pressure, when you hit those patches down in Turn 2, it beat up the inside of the tire.

"Whoever picked this tire, it's their fault."

Riggs' MB2 Motorsports teammate, Joe Nemechek, finished third using the same setup. He had no tire problems, but he admitted it was tricky.

"It caught a lot of people off guard," he said. "You had to be on top of your game on your changes. There were guys who struggled with their setups.

"When we come back next month, you'll see a whole different deal."

After meeting with Goodyear, NASCAR said it felt the problems were an "isolated incident," but would follow up with the tire company.

Rudd had the most problems. He said every time he hit the rumple strips in the second turn, it cut a tire.

"I think they came back and said, 'Don't hit the curbs.' I've been at it a long time and never seen anything like that. That was a lame excuse, really."

Rudd said his car's suspension was "conservative," so the car itself wasn't to blame.

"I stayed two feet from the curbs (after the first three blowouts) and we still blew out three more after that, so I don't know," he said.

Earnhardt said, "I don't have a very good opinion of the tires right now, so it's probably best that I just keep my mouth shut about it."

WALTRIP REBOUNDS: Michael Waltrip started on the pole, faded back to 20th halfway into the race and rallied to a fifth-place finish.

"We lad the fastest car in town in the first 30 laps, then something went left-field on us," Waltrip said.

"We had to work on the car; Tony (Eury Jr., crew chief) made a lot of adjustments on it, and we were fast again, faster than anybody, at the end, but we ran out of time."