Revisiting the Pinty's Finish at Mosport
May 26, 2022
Goodyear has issued a staunch warning to NASCAR Cup Series crew chiefs in advance of the Coca-Cola 600 – ignore the recommended air pressure, camber and shock settings at your own risk.
“Recommended” is more than a recommendation
That is literally lifted from Thursday’s Goodyear Fast Facts press release disseminated to teams and the media before each race over the course of the season.
The current generation Cup Series car with its independent rear suspension has shifted a considerable amount of weight to the rear and teams have experienced increased tire failures as a result. While it’s easy to blame the tire manufacturer, Goodyear is adamant that it does a tremendous amount of research in reaching the conclusions behind its recommendations each week.
Goodyear always does its due diligence in taking tires back to its Akron, Ohio facility to do post incident analysis but frequently reminds teams in the middle of races to adhere to the recommendation, at which point failures tend to cease.
In short, there is speed to be found in exceeding air pressure and camber recommendations but at the risk of tire failures. Consider how often front-running or even leading cars experience tire failures. That’s not a coincidence. With that said, individual driving styles also play a factor in tire wear as well.
Goodyear Racing director Greg Stucker says his team of engineers is constantly adjusting recommendations as it acquires more data.
"What we’ve seen play out at recent Cup race weekends, is exactly what we saw in testing in preparation for this season with the Next Gen car," Stucker said in the release. "The balance of the Next Gen car is definitely shifted towards the rear of the car."
The left rear, more often than not on intermediate tracks like Kansas, Texas and Charlotte.
"We have been working with the teams, not only at the track over the course of race weekends, but also providing them data in advance that speaks to this," said Stucker, "and what the tire needs to operate with regards to both camber and inflation -- both of which are critical elements of the set-up.
"Teams, as they always do, are constantly working on their cars to make them better as the season progresses. We have seen this and worked with them as they try to maximize the use of all corners of the car. Teams will, naturally, strive to make their cars faster and many have found the edge over the past several points races."
It’s also worth pointing out that Goodyear doesn’t offer a blanket recommendation of air pressure for each degree of dynamic camber before a race. The Next Gen’s tires are also wider with a lower profile, designed to withstand the increased loading of the new car while also giving crew chiefs more set-up options throughout the season.
That was all articulated by Front Row Motorsports crew chief Blake Harris during a Wednesday media teleconference.
"I think we have a we have a wider range than we’ve had in the past with cambers," Harris said. "Air pressure, that’s not really changed, I think maybe we get into some of these sessions where you get a false sense of security with where you’re currently at, where you look at your teammate’s information and they didn’t blow a tire and they’re lower camber or lower load."
Harris believes the failures are indeed a combination of aggressive set-ups but also a result of a tire that sometimes can’t withstand a spike load, or sudden increased pressure at various points of the race, due to how close to the edge teams are.
That's especially true early in a run when pressure is at its lowest.
"We’re sitting all up to the shock, if not on the shock, at a lot of these tracks," Harris said. "When you hit a spike load of however many thousands of pounds, if you’re already pushing it on all those parameters, air pressure, and load and camber, you get those spike loads, especially when you first come out on the track. I think that’s why in practice, and sometimes green-flag stops, you see that happen almost immediately, because the pace is whipped up, the downforce is at a maximum amount, you’re going through the corners at the most amount of load that you’ll see at that point in time."
For now, NASCAR does not have the implemented technology to monitor air pressure in real time. Having such technology would provide transparency for when teams claim the tires are unreliable, but it also risks eliminating another set-up variable in an era that now features a spec car with little room for innovation.
With that said, any
future air pressure monitor could be kept private for just the teams and
sanctioning body to monitor as well.
For now, with the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend, teams will need to once again get up to the figurative edge with the set-up decisions but be careful in how close they get to exceeding it.