Thankfully, the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard is over. For a race fan, it was a very strange event, and in some ways seemed like a series of heat races. There were virtually no long green flag runs, with competition cautions every 10 to 12 laps. Jaun Pablo Montoya and Matt Kenseth blew tires. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had tire trouble. Kyle Busch had tire trouble. They were taking Goodyear tires off of these cars with 7 or 8 laps of green flag racing on them, and they were worn down to the cords.
The owners and drivers basically said the only thing that they could, which was that Nascar was doing all they could, they were doing the right thing, and it wasn't Nascar's fault, and it wasn't Goodyear's fault either. All the experts on the situation were waiting for the track to get "rubbered in", which basically means that enough rubber gets laid down by practice and qualifying that the tires wear longer for the actual race.
That obviously did not happen. Instead of pushing rubber into the track surface, the tires just shredded, leaving little piles of rubber everywhere. It got in the grill openings to the cars. It got inside the cars and all over the drivers. It got all over the fans sitting close to the track. As a long time fan of Nascar, I've never seen anything quite like it.
Certain tracks have always been known to be hard on tires. Indianapolis is one of them. So was Darlington. So was the old Rockingham track. Certain tracks have always had reputations as being tracks where tire strategy would be very important.
I remember back in the old days, they used to run 500 miles at Talladega on one set of left side tires, and they might only change right side tires 2 or 3 times during a race. Today, very few of the drivers could get 10 good laps out of a set of tires, and often times they only got 5 or 6 good laps out of them before they began having problems. The boys in the ESPN booth were all but apologizing for the race. Several drivers said that they put on the best show they could, under the circumstances. I felt rather bad for the drivers that had to deal with so many cautions, which made for a very long day for a race that's only 400 miles long.
Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus for their victory today. Jimmie and Chad seemed to be one of the few teams that formulated a tire strategy early on and followed it to success. Other teams such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. gambled by short pitting, and gaining track position. Dale Jr. led laps early in the race, but quickly lost a lot of track position as he wobbled around on a left rear tire that was going flat. Dale Jr. eventually ended up a lap down, and it took several more cautions for him to get back on the lead lap. Though he flirted with the top 10 several times later in the race, he continued to lose positions every time he pitted, and ended up rather unhappy with a 12th place finish. Teammate Jeff Gordon seemed to be attempting to use a similar strategy as was Johnson's team, and managed a respectable 5th place finish. Congratulations to Jimmie and Hendrick Motorsports for their 3rd points victory in 2008, and Jimmie's second of the year.
I'm certainly not going to play the blame game for what happened at Indy today, but It seems to me that with all the millions of dollars that Nascar spends on research and development, and all the money that Goodyear pours into its racing tire program, it just seems to me that somebody, somewhere, dropped the ball. As interesting as it was to see a series of heat races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I hope I don't get to see that ever again.
On a side note, for those of you who might be Jeff Gordon fans, there is a brand new message board devoted specifically to all things Jeff Gordon. I have visited it, and even joined. It's a really nice site, and the lady who is running the board is doing so in order to have a place where Gordon fans can meet and chat. Go check out the Jeff Gordon Pit Board, and you'll meet some very nice people!