From the wet rain storm that delayed the highly publicized racing event to the fiery start for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and company, NASCAR’s Duck Dynasty 500 has been as wild as the races’ namesake. With Joey Logano ultimately winning an incredibly close and exciting finish, the attention has been more on the conditions that the racers were exposed to that are not typical to most races. Having to delay the event due to rain until the next day, the sun has proven to be an even more bigger problem for drivers. With a change in the tire regulation made by NASCAR, it may have effected the race more than originally thought.
The rising temperature has caused not only discomfort for the fans willing and able to reschedule due to the 24 hour rain delay, but also caused the track to become extremely hot to the point where contact with the cars tires were effected. With a controversial decision change from NASCAR executives to forgo the usual regulation of the drivers tires prior to the race, rubber was indeed burning in the effected heated track. It is highly doubtful that the tire issues were due to any negligence from the veteran pit crews for that many cars having trouble in Texas, so where can the blame be placed for the tires not be able to capacitate the additional heat?
Earndhardt Jr. was among many racers having tire troubles in the sizzling sun soaked track. From the start of the race, the temperature steadily increased 25 degrees. Tire condition were made a concern for the drivers as the race progress. Turn 4 of the Texas Motorsports Speedway proved to be the most difficult, mimicking an off-road track than one more appropriate for a Cup Series. To attempt to balance the situation, NASCAR allowed each driver to go into their pits and access all their hinges without losing starting position. It wasn’t enough however to ensure safety of the driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr. bowed out early of the race on lap 13 as the number 88 car drove onto the grass, hit hard against the wall right before the third turn and was forced to climb out of the vehicle uninjured as parts of his car caught on fire.
Prior to the race, NASCAR made the decision to not regulate tire pressure before and during the event may have effected the drivers and their team. This allows self regulation by the pit crew and disallows any blame by Goodyear, the company the distributes the vehicles with the tires. While it was obvious to everyone that the difficult conditions on the track were not due to tire pressure and in fact because of the heat reacting with the tires, Goodyear can not legally be held responsible for any situation that is associated with tire issues. Whether the result was for swaying bad publicity for Goodyear or to relieve the company from any liability in cases such as these, the fact that NASCAR made the regulation change to protect Goodyear for reasons yet unknown is not a very honest practice. It would be understandable for tires to have difficulties adjusting to the scalding race track, but this is another example of how NASCAR puts sponsors over the safety of their drivers.
Commentary by: Hector Carrion