Tag Archives: Auto Club Speedway

NASCAR Tiregate – So What?

Unless you are a NASCAR fan who has been living under a rock, NASCAR has been on a witch hunt to find out who may have been messing with the tires in order to get an advantage over the competition. This week NASCAR fined and penalized the Ryan Newman, No. 31 Caterpillar team of Richard Childress Racing (RCR).

Evidently there has been talk about some teams manipulating tires for some time in the garage. It hit the media early this season then NASCAR started taking random tires from teams after the Phoenix International Raceway race. Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick‘s tires were looked at and no indication of tampering was found. NASCAR also took tires from Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman after the race at Auto Club Speedway in California.

NASCAR must have seen something suspicious about the tires from California and sent it to an outside consultant for further review. This process took more than a week and Tuesday NASCAR dropped the hammer and issued a P5 penalty to the No. 31 team. A P5 penalty consists of a $125,000.00 fine to Luke Lambert the Crew Chief plus a six “Point Paying” race suspension from competitions including any nonpoint races in-between (All-Star Race) for Lambert, James Bender, team tire technician and Philip Surgen, team engineer.

Potentially more important is Ryan Newman and car owner Richard Childress have been penalized 75 points. This drops the No. 31 team from sixth in points to 26th in points. We can presume that the other RCR car of Paul Menard did not have any tire irregularities.

At no point in time has NASCAR or RCR indicated what was done to the tires. The commonly held rumor is that small pin holes were made in the tire to “Bleed” off air when the tire was hot in the middle of tire run to keep the tire more near the optimal range. This would in effect make the tire good through the whole tire run not just in the middle or at the end of a tire run.

In the eyes of NASCAR and many others this is cheating pure and simple. In addition it is manipulating one of the big three of NASCAR, the tires, fuel or engine: hence the P5 penalty.

Well in my mind there is cheating and there is cheating. Having an engine with more displacement, that’s a no brainer, cheating. I could do that. Having better fuel, that’s the same. Manipulating the tire via engineering something new, well that is pretty cool.

If they were able to figure out what size hole and/or how many of the same and get them to release air to maintain the near optimal pressure in a full tire run they deserve a medal. They deserve an A for effort!  Unfortunately for them I’m not NASCAR and they still deserve a P5 penalty.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 307294 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

Greg Biffle – We are Dying a Slow Death

All NASCAR fans know that Roush Fenway Racing did not do very well last year and started out this year more or less the same. Could it be worse than we know? Did Greg Biffle let out some frustration during qualifying at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California? We probably won’t know for sure but it does look that way.

Last year Greg Biffle made the Chase for the Sprint Cup on points and Carl Edwards made it via winning a race but mostly the flagship Roush Fenway Racing drivers were not a threat to win every week and perhaps any week especially at the 1.5 and 2 mile tracks they are known to be good at. The talk all last year is they know they are behind and will catch up. Well this year is another year and it is simply not looking good.

Carl Edwards bolted for seemingly greener pastures. The jury is out on that but it seems to get greener every week. Greg Biffle is left to be the elder statesmen of the Roush team so when he says “We are dying a slow death” it is troubling. To be fair here is the full quote.

It’s been a challenging year and a half for us and it’s no different this weekend than normal. All of our cars, I think our best car is 26th or 27th. So that’s just not acceptable for how good of a team we are and how hard everyone works back at the shop and our engines.” Biffle added, “We just got to figure this out. You Know we’re dying a slow death and we just got to work hard and figure out where the speeds at and get the cars trimmed out. Show up closer than we do for the weekend is the main thing we need to work on. Seems like we’re getting speed in. The very last run was our fast run but just not quite fast enough yet.

Greg’s statement only leads to many thoughts. The first and main thought is what happened to “One Ford”? Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, the Penske Racing team, seem to be making those Fords work. Richard Petty Motorsports driver, Aric Almirola driver of the famous no. 43 is 14th in points Sam Hornish Jr. driver of the No. 9 who is 24th in points get their chassis from RFR. It was hoped that Hornish’s connection to Penseke would provide a benefit.

Let’s let the Elephant into the room. Did Roush Fenway Racing do something to Penske Racing when they switched to Ford such that they will not ever help? Will there never truly be “One Ford?”

The season isn’t lost yet for Roush Fenway Racing but it doesn’t look good. Greg Biffle is 16th in points, Trevor Bayne 26th and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 27th but if they keep this up time will run out.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will lead the Charge for Roush Fenway Racing at Auto Club Speedway starting 27th. Greg Biffle will start behind him 29th and Trevor Bayne will start 36th. All of these starting position are bad. The only hope is that this is a 2 mile speedway with multiple groves and it is a long 400 mile race. They can get to the front if they can find some way to make their cars faster. Unfortunately their recent history suggests that will not happen.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 307241 Jeff Gross/NASCAR via Getty Images

NASCAR Drivers Have a “Days of Thunder” Moment at Auto Club Speedway

In the movie Days of Thunder NASCAR rookie stock car driver Cole Trickle gets a valuable lesson from his legendary crew chief Harry Hogge. Cole was a typical hardnosed race car driver and would literally drive the rubber off his tires, hit the wall and wreck. Harry taught him that he could hold a little back in the initial run and that the competitors tires would fall off leaving him to catch up since his did not. This is exactly what we had going on at Auto Club Speedway during the Auto Club 400.

To an outside observer there was a caution due to a tire failure every 20 laps or so. One might think that there was a tire problem. There was not. It was an aggressive set up problem. NASCAR loosened up the rules such that teams could have more camber in the tires (Angle of Tire to pavement), reduced air pressure in the tires. More importantly the ride height rules have also allowed teams to have almost no spring or shocks in the front tires.

Like the movie, these adjustments can make a NASCAR Sprint Cup car faster, and also like the movie there are consequences. It takes a delicate balance to produce speed while making the tire last.

Robin Pemberton, Vice President of Competition for NASCAR explained it this way. “Last year we opened up the rules on camber for the rear end.  I would say that a year ago at this time we were early in the process, and teams were probably not as aggressive as they wound up being as the season unfolded, as they got the mechanics better in their cars and the opportunity to be able to make parts and pieces live longer now, I think they’re probably a little bit better prepared for that. So if they had too much camber — they’ve got a lot of choices, so if they had too much and it abused the tire, that’s what happens.

NASCAR fans, we need this. We need to have the drama of teams pushing the limits and getting punished for the same. We need some teams to get it just right and punish the competition. If you watched the races at AutoClub Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway, they were exciting. Something was going to happen at any minute.

The rest of the season is going to be great.  Sometimes—like this weekend—fresh tires will make a difference, sometimes they will not. Some teams will be able to make fresh tires work; others, because of their setups, will be able to make old tires work. There is a reason to watch each and every lap; not just the last 20 or so.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 296601 Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images

Matt Kenseth will Benefit from his Teammates at Auto Club Speedway

Last week NASCAR was at the Bristol Motor Speedway Coliseum for some high speed short track racing. This week NASCAR and Matt Kenseth visit the other side of the racing spectrum. This week they return to the Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400.

The Auto Club Speedway is in sunny Fontana California. It is a two mile speedway with wide sweeping corners. There is 14 degrees of banking in all four turns, 11 degrees on the Frontstretch and 3 degrees on the back stretch. This track is very much like Michigan International Speedway except due to the weather, the track surface is different.

Last year at Auto Club Speedway the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth had the race covered. All three teams started the race in the top 5. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin stayed there most of the race. Matt Kenseth and his team had an up and down day but managed to finish seventh. Denny Hamlin was leading the last lap when Joey Logano wrecked him leaving Kyle Busch to go on to win the race.

Looking at the Driver Ratings it would appear that Jimmie Johnson has the field covered with his monster 119.6 rating but then comes the power of two teammates who do well sharing information. Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth’s ratings of 109.2 and 105.5, the second and third best are pretty good as well.

Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth also have the second and third best average running position of 9.1 and 9.4 to Jimmie Johnson’s series best of 6.1.

Matt Kenseth has always done well at Auto Club Speedway and was disappointed that he couldn’t match his teammates performance last year. This is a drivers track and Kenseth knows what to do.

There’s a lot going on — the seams are a big deal there.  The track is really worn out so there’s a lot of fall off on the tires.” Kenseth added, “It’s definitely one that you can change your line, change your approach, find grip, lose grip, find speed and all that kind of stuff.  It’s like every track where you have to have the car right, but certainly there’s a lot of options when you go there of where you can run.

The Auto Club Speedway is Toyota Racing Development‘s home track. Matt Kenseth and the whole Dollar General Toyota team would love to win.

This race is also the first race at a large speedway where the new NASCAR Knock Out Qualifying will be used. Some of the same strategies used at the other tracks might come into play but at this track drafting down the straight away might have an advantage. Will some of the teams have teammates draft in order to get them into the next segment or perhaps the pole?

Qualifying will be shown on Fox Sports 1, Friday, March 21st starting at 7:30 PM ET. It will be shown with a delay.

If you cannot get to Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400 it will be broadcast live on Sunday, March 23 on FOX starting at 2:30 PM ET. The race is 400 miles or 200 laps.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 284211 Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

Top 10 Driver Rating at Auto Club
Jimmie Johnson ……………………. 119.6
Kyle Busch …………………………… 109.2
Matt Kenseth ………………………… 105.5
Tony Stewart ………………………… 102.0
Carl Edwards ………………………….. 98.5
Jeff Gordon …………………………….. 96.2
Greg Biffle ……………………………… 95.8
Kevin Harvick …………………………. 95.5
Kasey Kahne ………………………….. 92.9
Clint Bowyer …………………………… 91.4
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (15 total) among active drivers at Auto Club Speedway