Sprint Cup drivers pleased with tires after tests
AP Sports Writer
DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) – Elliott Sadler had no complaints for Goodyear, only for those drivers griping about the manufacturer.
When asked what it meant that at least a dozen competitors faced tire trouble at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, Sadler was quick with a response: “Yeah, but there were 37 others that didn’t,” he said Tuesday at Darlington Raceway.
Sadler and fellow Sprint Cup racers Marcos Ambrose and Clint Bowyer came to the track “Too Tough To Tame” to shake out the dormant raceway and give Goodyear some insight about what tire to bring to the Southern 500 in May.
Sadler said those racers bothered by tire compounds should instead look to their raceshops for better setups designed to minimize tire wear and maximize the rubber.
“I think it’s the best Goodyear tire we’ve had in Atlanta in years,” Sadler said. “You can race really hard with it. You can race side-by-side.”
Sadler acknowledged the complaints of some teams. “I know Denny Hamlin had one, he had a fast race car,” Sadler said. “But he ran over something. To me, that’s not a tire issue.”
Ambrose and Bowyer were also complimentary about Goodyear’s product.
“I had a flat in Atlanta and I think that was my first flat tire in three years,” Bowyer said.
And Bowyer had more praise for Goodyear. He thought the tire brought to the California race last month showed vast improvement over what they’ve raced on there in the past. At Atlanta, “we were just as much to blame as them. Everybody was searching around for” the best air pressure levels.
“A lot of times, you can’t always blame Goodyear,” Bowyer said.
Bowyer’s RCR Racing team tried different levels to see what worked best, pushing him from two laps down into the top 10.
“It wasn’t like we put a different tire company on it, we just tried different things within the boundaries,” Bowyer said.
Ambrose continued to have problems at Darlington – not with tires, though, but with the track.
He finished 33rd here in the Southern 500 a year ago, his first time driving a Sprint Cup race at Darlington. It took him only a few laps Tuesday to spin out.
“I reaffirmed that the tire here was difficult to drive on,” he said with a smile. “I couldn’t get around this place.”
Darlington has changed the past two years since a multimillion dollar repaving gave the track a modern, slick surface. On top of that, Bowyer said the racers found a layer of grit and sand they needed to blow off with a few laps before they could get meaningful data that might help next May.
The machines used also featured the new spoilers NASCAR plans to debut in Martinsville on March 28.
Sadler said former Sprint driver Brett Bodine helped with the adjustment to the spoiler, which Sadler thinks might be the answer to keeping cars from going airborne.
Brad Keselowski lifted off the track surface last Sunday in a frightening wreck after getting intentionally hit by Carl Edwards. Edwards was placed on three weeks probation by NASCAR earlier Tuesday.
Sadler wasn’t too concerned about Edwards’ retaliation, a practice he says has gone on between drivers for generations. What worried him most was how quickly Keselowski’s car took to the air and how it could’ve landed in the stands with horrifying results.
“The spoiler seems to better at keeping these cars on the ground, which is what we need,” Sadler said.
Bowyer expects an exciting, tightly contested race at Darlington in two months, helped by a Goodyear tire that will bring out the drivers’ best.
Sure, there are legitimate issues at times with Goodyear. The manufacturer, though, has learned from its breakdowns and improved, Bowyer said.
“I feel like they’ve done a good job of stepping up to the plate this year and creating some good racing for us so far,” Bowyer said.