CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Goodyear has warned teams that increased speeds at Charlotte Motor Speedway will put a heavy emphasis on the right front tires in Saturday night's race — a potentially key development for drivers trying to advance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Stu Grant, general manager of worldwide racing for Goodyear, said Friday the tire manufacturer provided durability guidelines a day earlier for teams to use in their preparations.
"They have got to be aware of the additional load that that speed puts on that right front tire," Grant said. "The air pressures that you ran in May may not be sufficient to carry the load on that right front this weekend because they're running half a second faster than the track record. ... it's important that as these guys set their cars up that they're aware of the additional camber gain you're going to get with the additional load and you need to watch that air pressure because it's got to be sufficient to carry that load."
Kurt Busch set the track record in Thursday qualifying with a lap at 198.771 mph. It broke Denny Hamlin's record of 195.624 set in 2013 and was the fastest lap ever recorded on a 1.5-mile track. Busch's speed was also almost 4 mph faster than the lap Jimmie Johnson turned to win the pole in May.
Although the pace of Saturday night's race will slow compared to qualifying speeds, Goodyear felt teams needed to be informed, particularly after championship contenders Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski both blew right front tires last week at Kansas and are in danger of being eliminated from the Chase.
Keselowski's tire went back to North Carolina from Kanas with Team Penske, and was received by Goodyear on Thursday for further analysis at its Akron, Ohio, facility. Goodyear does not have Earnhardt's tire because Hendrick Motorsports was doing its own examination and had yet to ship it to Akron.
Goodyear officials did look over both tires at Kansas, but Grant said "nothing jumped out at us." Damage appeared to be to the inside shoulder, belt-edge. In the past, Goodyear has found that teams were too aggressive with either their air pressure or camber settings, causing tire failures.
Earnhardt crew chief Steve Letarte and Keselowski crew chief Paul Wolfe both told Goodyear their setups were not aggressive enough to cause tire failures.
"Could it have been the result of a slow leak? Possible. It may not have been anything that the teams did," Grant said. "All we can do is look at what we have and do an analysis and say here's what that tire experienced. All we try to do is give the teams all the tools we can possibly give them in order to help them set their car up as well as they can."