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What Was Up with the Texas Tire Failures?

Consensus: It wasn't Goodyear's fault.


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Corey Lajoie was adamant that the teams that were most aggressive with their air pressure setups on Sunday in the Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway were ultimately the ones who paid the price for it.

Lap 79: Christopher Bell
Lap 97: Alex Bowman
Lap 137: Christopher Bell
Lap 184: Chase Elliott
Lap 198: Chris Buescher
Lap 243: Chris Buescher
Lap 254: Kevin Harvick
Lap 269: Martin Truex Jr.
Lap 301: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

There were almost a dozen instances of right rear tire failures that changed the outcome of both the event and opening race of the Round of 12. Lajoie, who drives for lesser funded Spire Motorsports, is amongst the group defending tire manufacturer Goodyear through a few days of fierce debate.

"The better the cars were this weekend, the more problems they had with their tires," Lajoie said Tuesday during a media teleconference. "We had a right rear tire vibration from the moment we unloaded to the moment we loaded back up. It did not drive good. It was high and I could tell the diffuser wasn't sealed to the race track, all the things Rodney (Childers) covered on Twitter."

For those that missed it, Childers detailed the fundamental issue the morning after the race before clocking in as crew chief for Harvick and the Stewart-Haas No. 4 team. The 2014 Cup Series champion says NASCAR mandated limits on suspension travel is ultimately what forces teams to lower air pressure to lower their cars and make speed.

Childers wrote:

"The reason there are tire issues is the shock limiter rule," wrote Childers. "The teams wouldn’t be running the tires [with] lower [pressure] if you could get the car lower in the back and the diffuser to its optimal downforce point. If you could run the car lower with the suspension you would actually run more air in the tires to keep the travel more consistent. Another option that would help is make the rear diffuser where it makes the most downforce with it a half-inch higher than it is (kinda impossible).

"Right now you can’t really get the diffuser down to the optimal spot for maximum downforce, because you are locked by the limiters. Your only way to get it lower and go faster is to let air out of the tires. If you get the diffuser 0.100-inch lower by squishing the tires more, it is free speed. [It is] like you added more spoiler to the car.

"The Texas track configuration makes it worse. Less speed, less banking, less load on one end of the track compared to the other. So to keep the car low enough and be fast in [turns] 1 & 2 where you can pass, you have to be bumping limiters “some” in [turns] 3 & 4. Hitting solid rods puts all the load through the tires."

The bumps caused spike loads, which isn't a good marriage for cars with lower air pressure setups.

In other words, as Elliott also pointed out on Sunday, it’s hard to vilify Goodyear for the box teams have been placed in and the risky decisions crew chiefs have to take.

"I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault," said Elliott on Sunday after leaving the infield care center. "Goodyear always takes the black eye, but they’re put in a really tough position by NASCAR to build a tire that can survive these types of racetracks with this car. I wouldn’t blame Goodyear."

Lajoie echoed that sentiment by saying he too would like more and less air pressure, but that is playing with figurative fire, and his team doesn’t have the resources to get it as close as the powerhouses do on a weekly basis.

"How many right rears made it last through the whole race without backing it into the fence," Lajoie said figuratively. "A lot of guys. They weren’t happy with how their car and even those who were happy with how their car drove, seemed to have some issues.

"I don’t think it’s Goodyear’s fault because here’s the thing. If they build a tire that has a more rugged sidewall, that wears out less, then we would put even more camber into it, even less air into it."

Lajoie said there is a line to be crossed to make more speed but that comes with the increased risk of a penalty -- a tire failure and a potential crash. He knows better than anyone having crashed twice at Charlotte for pushing past that line."

A potential suggestion has been floated as maybe NASCAR should mandate and monitor minimum air pressures, but Lajoie doesn’t agree with that either. He says that this should be left up to crew chiefs, but that they can’t complain when that line is crossed.

"I don't think NASCAR needs to hold teams’ hands," Lajoie said. "These guys are grown-ups. They can learn from their mistakes or other’s mistakes, the four car teams, where two blow tires, look at the other two and ask what they did ...

"NASCAR can set all the minimums they want. At the end of the day, there is grip and if teams want to go get it, and it's possibly getting their days cut short, they can get after it."

On Sunday, the race was won by Tyler Reddick, and crew chief Randall Burnett indicated that he got as close to the line as he conservatively could without crossing it.

"We came into this race a little conservative," Burnett said. "We got bit at Kansas the other week with one. I think we've had four tires go down this year while leading the race. R.C. (Richard Childress) talked to me about it and said, Make sure you keep some air in the tires today. I tried to do that. A little bit more conservative approach this week. It's a fine line. Everybody knows the speed, pushing the limits of the tires."

As the race continued and the right rears began to fail at a higher rate, he got even more conservative and it won them the race.

"As the race went on, got even a little more conservative," he added. "Like when the sun went down after the rain, the pace picked up quite a bit, a lot more grip in the track. We were able to come up on air pressures then, just try to make sure that we didn't put ourselves in a bad spot."

To Lajoie’s point, that’s why NASCAR shouldn’t mandate pressures, because that is an area for teams to compete.

But the consensus in the garage is that Sunday was not Goodyear’s fault.