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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Drivers express some concerns about new tires, effect of extra practice

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Goodyear's decision to bring a new left-side tire for the Cup race was probably wise, considering the issue with blistering that had been popping up all weekend, but now there are new concerns. The replacement tire is harder, and loses grip. There is also concern that an extra practice had to be run, as the engines can only go so many miles.

Here is a sample of driver response.

MARCOS AMBROSE (pole sitter): “Well, we were out there trying to save miles on the engine, so we never really busted off a good run. The tire is very different. It hasn’t got much grip. You are loose in, shake in the middle and then on the gas spin yourself out. It feels unbalanced and a little bit wobbly and you don’t want to be wobbly at 200 mph. You want to feel like the car is underneath you. I think we did enough stuff during practice to get a feel for what we need. We will make some adjustments tonight and get ready for tomorrow.”

GREG BIFFLE (Fastest in Extra Practice Session): “The tires are really hard, you can tell. It is giving up a lot of grip. It is kind of funny, you can hear the tires squealing when you first go out, before it builds temperature, you can feel it sliding on the race track. It slows the cars down and as it builds heat it actually starts to gain some of that grip back. I think the biggest thing with this tire that I remember is the first three laps off of the yellow as the hardest racing around other cars. The thing will just take off on you. That is the biggest thing we need to stay cautious of. After you get four or five laps in a run I think it will race pretty normal.”

Asked about the extra practice, Biffle said:
“It kind of threw us for a loop – the engine guys mostly. They have set amount of miles we can put on the engines and we are a little over this weekend. We are on the throttle so much around here that we are a little concerned with the engine package anyway. This is a little added blood pressure for them all day tomorrow.”

So it's kind of like medicine, you try to fix one issue (tires) with some new medicine, and the medicine may or may not work, and it may have side effects (engines blowing due to overuse). As crazy as this Michigan weekend has been so far, I'm predicting an exciting show for the fans Sunday; though the drivers and teams may not have so much fun depending how things go for them.

Ambrose shatters track record at MIS; runs fastest qualifying lap in decades

Most drivers couldn't replicate their practice laps of 202, 203 of 204 mph when it came time qualify. Marcos Ambrose could and he ended up with a qualifying lap over 203 mph, the fastest run in 25 years.

That's pretty cool, though with the new tire you can bet the speeds will come down some for the race, due to the lesser grip.

Still, Marcos Ambrose is the fastest man in NASCAR, and he's quite happy about it -- but not just for himself.

“There is no I in team and I am part of a great car to get this pole today. We’ve had a great car from the moment we got here. We’ve gotten under some things that really helped my feel behind the wheel and allowed us to get better setups. We knew we had a good car going into today’s session and I just needed to do the same thing I did yesterday at the end of the second practice. We threw down a lap and played a good strategy. We didn’t throw down a lap in the first practice so we could get an early draw and it worked in our favor," Ambrose said.

Richard Petty, Ambrose's team owner, knows a thing or two about going fast. Even he was amazed by Marcos' run.

“That is why I was asking when the last time anyone ran 200 mph. I can’t hardly remember that far back. To be able to do it on a flatter race track, not Daytona or Talladega, that is unheard of. Of course you know being we are running so fast and running into the tire problems we used to run into when we ran this fast on other speedways," Petty said. "Today is qualifying and tomorrow or Sunday is going to be a completely different operation. Nobody has ever run on these tires so we come up here and we practice one whole day and then practice yesterday and then qualify today. It is completely different just as if we come up here blind. It is going to be a whole different deal. We are proud that the guys put it together today, under the circumstances everybody else had, now we have to get our circumstances right for tomorrow.”

Happy Father's Day
I'd like to wish all the dads out there a happy Father's Day, and remind everyone one to thank your dad today for all he's done for you. It's my first year as a father myself, and my first without my father alive, so I understand the importance of this day more than ever this year.

Enjoy the day with your dad, maybe even watch the race with him if he's a fan. And let him know you appreciate him. That's more important than any gift.

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