The NASCARSprint Cup Series had a very exciting race at Richmond International Speedway. Nothing like Saturday Night Racing under the lights to ramp up the excitement, drama, and racing.
In the past few weeks some of the driver and teams have had problems with tires. At California it was left side tires and at the other tracks it was right side tires. This week at Richmond International Raceway the problem was right front tires.
To make the problem worse, or better yet more spectacular, the right front tires in this race were a dual compound. This type of tires has a harder inside edge to make it more durable. These dual zone tires, as they are called by Goodyear, are intended to make the racing better. Goodyear certainly accomplished that.
The only problem, one which could not be anticipated, is that after about 54 laps the inside “Endurance” zone of the tire gave up spectacularly on some of the cars. To make matters worse when it did give up it would wrap around the brake rotor and lines and catch fire.
Make no mistake about it, it is easy to point a finger Goodyear’s way when cars are aflame and say that isn’t good but that isn’t necessarily the correct answer. Watching the coverage on TV, the close-ups of each tire on fire clearly showed those cars had a large amount of camber in the right front tire.
Tire camber is the angle of the tire to flat pavement. If you look at your car in the driveway all of the tread will be contacting the pavement from the inside of the tire to the outside. Those NASCAR teams had essentially only the inside “Endurance” zone of the tire contacting the pavement. The advantage of doing this is that when the car is in the corner, when they need maximum grip, the whole tread is in contact with the pavement.
What happens is that on the straightaways only the “Endurance” zone is contacting the pavement. This was unnecessarily putting more wear on that part of the right front tires as they load and unload entering and leaving the corners; not to mention the small tri-oval.
The last 20 laps of racing were great up front. There were no tire issues with those teams—just great racing. It’s not the Goodyear tires; it’s what the teams do to them. What to do about these NASCAR Goodyear tires? Nothing! Please leave them alone, this has been some of the best NASCAR racing in years.
This week NASCAR is back from the Easter break for some short track Saturday night racing at Richmond International Raceway. Denny Hamlin has an outstanding record at Richmond. Hamlin missed this race last year due to an injury but is ready to get back to victory lane.
Richmond International Raceway is one of the neatest short tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. It is 3/4 of a mile in length but looks similar to the 1.5 mile D shaped ovals. Make no mistake about it though this high speed short track is just that. Some of the most exciting racing in NASCAR happens here. There is 14 degrees of banking in all four corners, 8 degrees on the front stretch and a relatively flat 2 degrees on the back stretch.
Looking at the Driver Ratings for Richmond, Denny Hamlin has the field covered with a 114.8 in spite of his last two races here finishing 21 and 18th. Hamlin does have to watch out for his teammate Kyle Busch (111.9) and Kevin Harvick (110.0), each of which has won the last two spring races. In fact since 2009 eight of the last ten races has been won by one of those three drivers. Busch won 4, Hamlin 2 and Harvick 2.
Last year Denny Hamlin missed the race due to his back injury and Brian Vickers drove the FedEx Toyota to a disappointing 35th place finish. This year Hamlin wants to make up for that by winning the race and reserving his place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Since this is a short track the Toyota Owners 400 is 400 laps or 300 miles.
If you cannot get to Richmond International Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400 it will be broadcast on FOX on Saturday, April 26th starting at 6:30 PM.
Top 10 Driver Ratings at Richmond
Denny Hamlin………………………. 114.8
Kyle Busch…………………………. 111.9
Kevin Harvick………………………. 110.0
Clint Bowyer………………………… 100.7
Tony Stewart…………………………. 96.5
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 96.0
Kurt Busch……………………………. 92.2
Ryan Newman……………………….. 91.6
Carl Edwards………………………… 90.1
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 88.5
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Richmond International Raceway
On Thursday, April 15th, 2014 Ford will celebrate 50 years of the Mustang. In honor of the occasion Edsel B. Ford II and NASCAR drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, and David Ragan reflected on how a Ford Mustang came into their lives.
The story wouldn’t surprise anyone. What would the son of a Ford get for Christmas when he was 16? What else, a 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback.
“My favorite Mustang memory, certainly like many others, is the day I got my first Mustang.“, said Ford.
Like the rest of us car buffs, Edsel’s dad Henry Ford II didn’t give him just any Mustang. His was customized. It had a special paint scheme in a pearlescent white finish with slim blue racing stripes over the top and the rocker panels.
It also had a functional hood scoop, chrome trip on the three grilles in the head lamp buckets, and fender-mounted rearview mirrors similar to the Mustangs sold in Europe. His father added one last special change, the rear fuel filler cap which normally had the pony logo on it had his initials “EBFII”.
The coolest part about Edsel’s special Mustang is that he drove it. It didn’t sit in a show room.
“That car was special for sure.” Edsel added, “I drove it through high school and then one summer afternoon on Long Island I let a friend borrow it. He was driving the car home, lost control and rolled it in a potato field near our house. My beautiful Mustang was destroyed. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the car was totaled.”
It is not surprising that some of the current Ford Racing NASCAR drivers have a Mustang or Mustang memory.
Greg Biffle bought a 2007 Mustang GT 500. Just like the rest of us he couldn’t just leave it the way he received it.
“I bought it because I really wanted one bad.” Biffle added, “I started doing modifications to it. I changed the blower pulleys and did all sorts of stuff. I have had a ton of fun with it.”
Ford Mustang’s run in Carl Edwards blood. He got his when he was 19. It was a 1985 Mustang GT with T-tops.
Edwards said, “We put a clutch in it. My dad and a guy named Bobby Williams and I worked on it and painted it and my buddy Ray Owen helped me work on it and he was a big Mustang guy.”
The Ford Mustang has made quite a splash when it returned to racing in 2010 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. It isn’t surprising that some of the other drivers memories surround their success with the Mustang in that series.
Brad Keselowski said, “My favorite Mustang story is when the Nationwide Series went to the Mustang and we went to Michigan and the Mustangs were there and they were the first cars to have the decals on the side that made it look like the production car. That was really cool.”
The 2011 and 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion was won by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. driving a Ford Mustang.
“When I was growing up though, my Dad, he builds engines for a living and a friend of his had a Mustang Mach 1.” Stenhouse Jr. added, “I was young, about seven or eight, so I don’t remember the exact year of the car. I believe it was a 1969 though. He took me for a ride in it one day and we got sideways. We were staring right at the back of a big truck and right at the last second he turned it and we spun around the other way and kept going. That was so much fun. I loved it. That was probably when I fell in love with Mustang.”
Joey Logano got his first win for Roger Penske in a Ford Mustang but he doesn’t have one of his own yet.
Logano said, “I need to get a Mustang to add to my stable of cars for sure. I love the old Mustang Mach 1 series. Those cars are just iconic.”
Somehow a Ford Mustang just draws a teenage boy. Aric Almirola is no exception.
Almirola said, “A memory that sticks out to me about Mustang is that I had a friend in high school that had a Cobra Mustang. I was driving a race car at the time in high school and he said he wanted to see what his car would do with a race car driver driving it. So my buddy in high school let me drive his Cobra and we put black marks around the street of our high school everywhere. I mean everywhere. That was a lot of fun.”
David Ragan happens to be a lifelong Ford fan. It isn’t surprising that there were many Ford Mustangs in his life. Even those that weren’t as sexy or fast.
“I grew up with my dad or uncle having some project Mustang cars around.” Ragan added, “We never really had new, fast Mustangs. They were always the mid-60’s. They really liked the mid-year cars.”
In the last 50 years the Ford Mustang has touched just about everyone. What is your Mustang Memory? Please take a few minutes and tell us about it in the comment section.
Last week NASCAR and Greg Biffle was at the high banked Texas Motor Speedway. This week they are at another high banked speedway but one that is totally different. This week NASCAR and Greg Biffle will try to tame Darlington Raceway in the Bojangles’ Southern 500.
The Darlington Raceway is the first NASCAR track that was built as a super speedway. Where Texas had 24 degrees of banking in the corners, Darlington has 25 degrees in turns 1 &2 and 23 in turns 3 & 4. There is no speedway like it on the NASCAR schedule. The track is not a short track as it is 1.366 miles around but it drives like a short track because it is very narrow. The race is 367 laps or 501.3 miles.
This track is known as the Lady in Black because of the number of cars that leave a black mark on the white walls. The driver in turn gets a Darlington Stripe on the Right side of the car. It is a Badge of Honor for a driver to win this race and have a Darlington Stripe on the car because it means he has tamed the track that is too tough to tame.
Looking at the driver ratings for Darlington Raceway there top five drivers are very good here. Jeff Gordon has a rating of 111.8 and appears to be the driver to beat. Denny Hamlin (108.9), Greg Biffle (107.5), Jimmie Johnson (107.5) and Kyle Busch (106.2) are statistically equal. The rest of the ratings are below for reference.
If you are into Fantasy NASCAR racing any one of the above drivers would be a good pick. The last few weeks though the Ford Racing Drivers have been particularly strong including Greg Biffle. Expect Greg Biffle to build on this strength at one of his better tracks and win the race.
Greg Biffle and the No. 16 3M team will also be supporting the American Red Cross campaign for blood donation. Visit Red Cross Racing to find out more.
Greg Biffle will keep the NASCAR 2014 season record going and will be the eighth different winner.
If you cannot get to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 it will be broadcast on FOX Saturday April 12th starting at 6 pm ET.
Some of the NASCARSprint Cup teams were testing at Michigan International Speedway for Goodyear April 8th and 9th 2014. The teams of Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman were laying down some wicked fast laps.
Clint Bowyer said he went 217 mph in the morning session. Bowyer said, “That’s white-of-your-eyes-fast.”
Those wicked fast speeds were not limited to Bowyer. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he was hitting speeds between 212 to 215 mph in the straightaways and about 180 in the turns.
There have been ongoing meetings between NASCAR and racing executives from Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota regarding reducing the horsepower in the engines. The current engines are 25 to 30 years old. NASCAR is looking to increase the longevity and therefore reduce the costs.
Though not specifically mentioned, it has got to be on NASCAR’s minds that these cars have been attaining speeds on the non-restrictor plate tracks that are over the 205 mph mark. That speed is about when the cars, if upset by contact or bumps on the track, can get airborne like an airplane. This is the very same reason they use restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega. At the current rate they are improving the cars they will be getting there soon.
I am not saying that when they get back to Michigan International Speedway they will be running at 217 mph. This tire test was a perfect storm; the track did not have rubber in it and very cool temperatures. These conditions will not exist when NASCAR gets back there in June and August.
We should applaud NASCAR for considering this now before the teams consistently race at a speed beyond which is safe. It will take more than a year for each manufacture to develop their motors for the reduced horsepower.
Roger Curtis said it best, “The drivers are posting 200 mph. That’s awesome. The fans get very, very excited about that. But at the end of the day, on Sunday when the green flag drops, the numbers ‘two zero zero’ they’re not anywhere in the fans’ minds. It’s lead changes, it’s the competition.”
Competition and lead changes is what we want and that is exactly why NASCAR is looking into the engine aspect of the sport. We don’t know what changes will be made but something will happen. Either way I am looking forward to the races at Michigan International Speedway this year.