NASCAR

Gas 'n' Go: NASCAR steps up to address tire problem

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Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond is a former NASCAR crew chief who led Darrell Waltrip to two of his three Sprint Cup championships. The duo also teamed up to win the 1989 Daytona 500. Prior to that, Hammond was the jackman for Cale Yarborough for all three of his Cup championships. He has 43 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief. Follow him on Twitter.

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Dr. Eddie from Wilmington, N.C.: Why do you suppose that Goodyear didn't come to the track with a tire that worked? I could have sworn that F1 already went through this at indy. Didn't NASCAR/Goodyear learn anything from that? Jeff Hammond: A lot of times, you never know what you're getting into until it's too late. Goodyear can't just jump up there and grab tires to fix every situation. A few years ago, NASCAR had a tire issue at Dover. Goodyear brought some tires and did some things that they had to do to cover that race. Everything came off really well. When Goodyear is given an opportunity to make adjustments, they can. But sometimes, they are just like anybody else. They get painted into a corner. They're locked in, and they have to go with what they brought. Race teams have to realize that they can destroy a tire with low air pressure and too much camber. I'm going to give NASCAR president Mike Helton and NASCAR a serious attaboy. I'm not really big on them sticking their noses where it doesn't belong, but on Saturday night, they did something that they needed to do for the safety of the competitors. Whether you agree or disagree, they had the right intentions when they tried to stop some of the problems by working with Goodyear. The sanctioning body didn't want a driver to get seriously injured. Goodyear runs into certain limitations with their product. These tires will not stand low air pressure, a lot of sideload and a lot of pressure applied to them at the wrong time. Teams need to be careful of not just camber but low air pressure. When NASCAR told the teams what they had to do, it was huge because I don't think the competitors realized how close NASCAR came to pulling the plug on this thing. I'm not saying that NASCAR totally fixed the problem, but they made an attempt and erred on the side of caution by mandating a certain air pressure. They heped some guys on pit road get smart. A lot of people questioned it, but the circumstances forced them to do something. In Tony Stewart's words — and I think it was eloquently put — it was a crazy couple of weeks at Lowe's from testing through the race.

What's next at Lowe's?

Bill from Townsend, Mass.: Will Lowe's Motor Speedway resurface the track, and what kind of race do you think we will see next year? Jeff Hammond: Next May should be fine. Lowe's Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler and his team will get with NASCAR and come up with a plan for the asphalt that they plan to use to repave the track. People need to understand that there are some differences in asphalt from place to place. They can make it more or less abrasive. After what happened during the two point races at Lowe's this year, it's important that the same thing doesn't happen again next May. Folks, don't just zero in on Lowe's. Darlington, Richmond, Bristol, Dover and even Texas once weren't where they needed to be. They either put a sealer on it that wasn't user friendly, and we wrecked a lot of cars that way. Or they have ground Dover, and we've had issues there. When they ground Bristol, we had issues there. Although those problems were never to the magnitude of what happened at Lowe's on Saturday night, we have run into this situation before. It challenges the competitors and the NASCAR officials, but we were able to weather these storms. Hopefully we'll learn from this problem, and move forward.

Gordon's role in Johnson's win

Speed Mail Jeff
Denise from Amherst, Ohio: Jeff Gordon went back onto the track after his crash to scuff tires for Jimmie Johnson. Do you feel this was key to Johnson winning at Lowe's Motor Speedway? Jeff Hammond: We'll have to refer to crew chief Chad Knaus' notes, but teams have scuffed tires in the past for other teams. I've had people do it for me when I was a crew chief. When you are running out of scuffed tires, you get somebody to scuff them up for you. And not necessarily teammates. You may get an independent driver and say, "Hey, I'll give you some tires next week if you'll scuff tires for me right now." Gordon's actions could have been pivotal because they gave Knaus options so we would have check his records to see which set he wound up with or if he even got down far enough to use Gordon's tires or not. It's always nice to have something to fall back on. With Kyle Busch falling out of the race, they may have picked up some tires there. I'm sure there were a lot of people running up and down pit road all night long, begging, borrowing and stealing tires from competitors who had problems.


FOX race analyst Jeff Hammond led Darrell Waltrip to two of DW's three Winston Cup championships as his crew chief. They also teamed to win the 1989 Daytona 500.

For autographed copies of Jeff Hammond's new book "Real Men Work in the Pits" plus magnets, hats and more, check out www.dwstore.com.

For photos and appearances, visit Jeff's web site www.jeffhammond.com.

Tagged: Jeff Gordon

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