Goodyear conducted a tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Monday and Tuesday, with Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart all taking part. Stewart, who was fastest early on, had a hard crash on Tuesday after losing the air from his right-front tire 17 laps into a 20-lap run.
"Tony was approaching the end of a very strong 20-lap run, with his lap times as much as a second faster than what has become the norm at Indianapolis at that point of a run," said Goodyear’s Greg Stucker. "It appears that increased, sustained speed over that run generated a significant amount of heat, which eventually caused the right-front to go down. Those are the conditions we have to consider in making the right decisions for the race."
"I was there and I didn’t actually see the wreck, but I heard it," Logano said. "It sounded bad and the car didn’t look too pretty afterward."
For his part, Stewart said he was OK after the impact. "We just blew a tire. I feel fine," said the three-time champion after practice at Sonoma Raceway on Friday afternoon.
Pressed about the severity of the impact, Stewart said, "It destroyed the car, so it was a good hit, but it is what it is." Stewart suffered a double-compound fracture of his right leg last August in a sprint car crash, but Friday at Sonoma he was not limping and appeared to be in excellent spirits.
POLE QUESTIONS — The schedule at Sonoma Raceway is a little bit unusual this weekend, in that all the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice is Friday, with qualifying on Saturday. Given that this is the first time that NASCAR has used its new qualifying format on a road course, there is much curiosity as to how qualifying will shake out.
"This is one of those tracks where somebody could get in your way and really kill your lap," said Jamie McMurray, last year’s pole winner. "And for the first run, the sticker tires are going to worth a lot versus going out on the scuffs. I don’t think you’ll see anybody go out on scuffs and knock anyone out because the tires are so important here. But really, we’ve talked about it for a week now. Do you want to go right out? Or, do you want to wait and let some of the guys run and then the track be cleaner? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone really has the answer right now."
With this being a road course and tire wear being at a premium, a driver on a flying lap could easily get balked by one on a slower lap, either coming up to speed or slowing down from a fast lap.
"The variable that we can’t control is cars on their out lap and cars on their in lap," Jimmie Johnson said. "That is going to be tricky. We do it in practice and we are able to accommodate each other and take care of things. Hopefully, everybody is plenty polite and the spotters are on top of it sending word down where a fast car is."
"You don’t want to use your tires on your out-lap," AJ Allmendinger said. "You kind of want to get them up to temp, but you don’t want to over-abuse them. I think those are what is really going to be critical, especially the first group. As you start getting less cars, it’s not as big of a deal. But the first group you are going to have a lot of cars that are maybe on a cool-down lap, or are trying to get their tires in when somebody is on a hot lap. It’s hard to hide around here. You can’t really hide and get out of the way."
Qualifying coverage starts Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. There will be two rounds of qualifying: a 30-minute session for the full field and a 10-minute final run, with the 12 fastest drivers from Round 1.
ROUSH MYSTERY CONTINUES — There is still nothing definite about Roush Fenway Racing and the status of drivers Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle for 2015. It is widely believed Edwards will end up at Joe Gibbs Racing or Team Penske next season and that Biffle will stay at RFR, where he’ll be paired with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and newcomer Trevor Bayne.
Friday at Sonoma Raceway, RFR President Steve Newmark sent out the following Tweet: "Working hard to put together a package for the 16 program in the future but nothing to report yet. Hope to have some news soon." The No. 16 Ford Fusion is the car Greg Biffle drives now.
QUICK FACTS — The folksat Sonoma Raceway put together some interesting statistics for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race:
– Jeff Gordon is the only driver to win five NASCAR races in Sonoma (1998-2000, ’04, ’06). There are four two-time winners: Ernie Irvan, (’92, ’94), Ricky Rudd (’89, ’02), Tony Stewart (’01, ’05) and Rusty Wallace (’90, ’96).
– Sonoma Raceway has hosted nine different race winners over the past nine years, and seven consecutive first time Sprint Cup Series road-course winners.
– The track records for qualifying and race winner speed were both set in 2012. Marcos Ambrose set the track qualifying record at 95.262 mph/1:15.203, while Clint Bowyer became the fastest race winner with an average speed of 83.624 mph.
– The late Dale Earnhardt won his only NASCAR road-course race in Sonoma in 1995.
– Juan Pablo Montoya holds the track record for the greatest winning improvement when he started 32nd and won in 2007. He also is the only rookie to win here.
– The Sonoma Raceway road course features more than 160 feet of elevation change from its highest to lowest points. The highest point at Turn 3a reaches 174 feet, while the lowest point at Turn 10 is just 14 feet.
– The berms on the turns of the road course are painted blue and gold at the suggestion of raceway President and General Manager Steve Page, who attended nearby University of California, Berkeley.
– Winners in Sonoma celebrate with a sip from the Champion’s Goblet in the Wine Country Winner’s Circle. The goblet was introduced in 2006, incorporating the raceway’s rich wine country heritage and allowing the winner to toast the fans. The goblets are specially created by a local glass blower from Sonoma.