Friday, March 07, 2008

Tired of tire issues?

"I'm tired," Brett Farve emotionally declared during his retirement announcement Thursday. The fact that Farve's retirement announcement has not effected me at all is reason for football fans to be happy that there are about 130 million of them and only one of me.
But the announcement did send shock waves throughout the sports world, much like the harder tire Goodyear brought this week for the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta sent shockwaves throughout the NASCAR garage. (You saw this segue coming, didn't you?).
The problem is that the teams who tested at Atlanta last Fall based all their notes and set up adjustments on the softer tires Goodyear had provided at the time. The harder tire compound provides less traction, so all those notes and adjustments are practically useless. As pole sitter Jeff Gordon remarked after qualifying, "It was like the brand new tires already had twenty laps on them."
He wasn't the only one complaining. The first practice was dangerous looking, with several spinning cars, but, luckily, no serious damage. The drivers who didn't spin their cars were confounded by the handling enough to know that if they tried to produce any fair amount of speed, they would spin as well.
Goodyear has the policy of using the same tires for the Cup Series as they do for the Nationwide Series, when there are companion races at the same track. This is a practice that seems to be outdated, since the Sprint Cup cars are very different from those used in the Nationwide Series. The tire manufacturer doesn't seem to have realized that, because the tires might be fine for the Nationwide cars, but force the Sprint Cup cars to slow way down on what is supposed to be the fastest mile and a half track on the NASCAR circuit.
If the tire issues are ridiculous, so is the ritual at Atlanta Motor Speedway of having final practice at 6:30 PM, when the race starts at 2:15 the next afternoon, under completely different temperature conditions. This means that most of the information gathered from "Happy Hour" as it is called, would be useful only for the end of the race, if at all.
Still, this is not all about complaining. The Sprint Cup car has brought some incredible racing to the fans, and, as the race begins Sunday, all teams will be equa as far as experience, or the lack thereof, goes. Racing is more thrilling when the outcome can't be predicted, and this is everything we can expect come Sunday's race.
I'm sure NASCAR racing fans will be much happier this weekend than Green Bay Packers fans.

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