Gordon – looking for someone to blame?

            Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Jeff Gordon, is not happy with Goodyear, the tire supplier for the NASCAR national touring series. Gordon’s frustration stems from the tire issues that race teams experienced last week at Auto Club Speedway.

            During the Auto Club 400 several top teams suffered blown tires. At one point, Gordon was leading the race when Clint Bowyer lost a tire. After the round of pit stops that followed the yellow, Gordon dropped to 13th position. Gordon then expressed his dis-pleasure with Goodyear, saying Goodyear was not prepared.

Gordon was asked if he had spoken with Goodyear while he was at a test in Sonoma, he responded, “I did not. No, I’m too mad at them to have a discussion with them about that right now. I went and did everything I could to put the best test together that I could there to learn what we could to go to Sonoma and win.”

One idea that has been presented by many is that maybe teams were too aggressive with set-ups and that is what led to the tire problems. According to an article posted by USA Today, Gordon addressed that opinion as well mentioning that the new rules packages are forcing team to take more chances because “that’s what’s going to win races.”

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That statement seemed to place the blame on NASCAR as well as Goodyear. NASCAR for implementing the new rules that reward winning, and Goodyear for not being prepared for the more aggressive attitudes that teams would have. Gordon, however, commented, “Don’t get me wrong we all play a role in it. You can easily sit here and say oh well the teams were not conservative enough, there were teams that were not having issues.”

Yet, he also pointed out that the cause of the tire problem was unknown by saying, “Yeah, tire wear I have no problem with tire wear. I know how to manage tire wear. But when it’s the sidewall and you don’t know is it the bumps on the back straightaway, is it the apron in turn three and four, is it speed, is it air pressure, camber? I mean we heard where people were low on air pressure, came up on pressure and that didn’t seem to fix it. When those things are happening it definitely makes you nervous because you don’t want to be that close to the edge. I think we all were very close to the edge.”

The irony in that opinion is that Gordon’s team did not have a tire issue. Gordon acknowledged that his team, “… saw issues on Saturday and we detuned our car from a tire abusive standpoint.” If they had no idea what caused it, and Goodyear was at fault by bringing a tire that was not good enough, how did his team “de-tune” the car to eliminate the issue?

It seems to this writer that Gordon’s anger is due to the fact that he lost the lead when a car lost a tire and he is looking for someone to blame. How about the fact that his team allowed him to drop from the lead to 13th during a pitstop? Whether it be due to a slow stop or strategy, it does not matter. Regardless of the reason, he came down pitroad with the lead and left pitroad 13th.

As far as having to push the envelope to be the fastest you can be, is that not what racing is supposed to be? These are some of the best racers in the world. This is the premier level of stock car racing. It is supposed to be tough. Drivers are supposed to be on the edge, as Gordon pointed out that they all were. This is the big leagues. It is supposed to be challenging.

The fact that NASCAR has devised a set of rules that causes teams to push the envelope is a good thing. The racing this season has been better than it has been in several years. Obviously, something is right about it. It is the team’s responsibility to find the balance between too aggressive and the most speed. The fact that this sport employs some of the most intelligent minds in the world, is a fact that should keep things interesting. When one team chooses one strategy and the next team chooses another, the level of competition is raised and racing becomes exciting.

Teams and drivers complaining that the challenges of the sport are too hard is baffling. It ranks right up there with drivers saying “he raced me too hard”, a phenomena that does not exist in the real world. Every team’s goal is to win. Developing strategies and racing hard to accomplish that goal is every team’s job. If it’s too difficult, then those teams should find another line of work.

Several teams did have tire problems at Auto Club Speedway. Several teams, however, including Gordon’s team, did not, and he admitted that his team de-tuned to lessen the chance of a tire issue. Hard to find how Goodyear and NASCAR are at fault here.

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