Gordon still ticked about tires, predicts problems at Texas

Jeff Gordon is still upset about the tire problems that cropped up in the Sprint Cup Series at Fontana.

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

MARTINSVILLE, VA. — Jeff Gordon was upset with Goodyear after last Sunday’s rash of tire failures at Auto Club Speedway in California. From the way Gordon talked on Friday at Martinsville Speedway, the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion is still less than pleased.

Gordon, who last weekend accused Goodyear of being "not prepared for what happened," took his criticism a step further by questioning the tire manufacturer’s decision not to conduct a test at Fontana in advance of the Auto Club 400. Furthermore, Gordon pondered out loud on Friday why Goodyear is — at least to his knowledge — not testing ahead of next weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile track with speeds and characteristics similar to the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway.

"I think we will see issues there. We saw issues there last year," the Hendrick Motorsports driver predicted for TMS. "I think as a team we are already looking at things that we were doing last year that we can look at trying to improve as far as abusiveness on the tires for Texas. My question is, did Goodyear test there? Because from what I understand, they didn’t test in California, and I think that that was obviously a mistake, because I think so of those things may have shown up in that test. Did they test in Texas? If they didn’t, then I hope they have a backup plan, because I do think that we are going to have some issues there."

Mike Siberini, a Goodyear Tires official, has said that there was no tire test at Texas and that next weekend Goodyear plans to use the new multizone tire that made its debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway last year.

Larry McReynolds: Don't be so fast to lay blame for tire issues at Fontana

Gordon, who tested tires at the Sonoma Raceway road course in northern California this past week, said he hasn’t talked with Goodyear officials about the Fontana situation in which tires exploded with puzzling regularity from the opening 20 laps until the end of the race.

"I’m too mad at them to have a discussion with them about that right now," Gordon said. "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. Tires aren’t an issue there when it comes to that type of situation we had at Fontana. I did not discuss it with them."

While Gordon was clearly irked with Goodyear last weekend, others were more reluctant to cast blame. The decision by several teams to run extra-low air pressures, combined with aggressive camber setups, was a contributing factor in the blowouts, which perhaps could have been prevented with a more conservative approach.

We were one of the fortunate ones that never had one that came apart.

Jeff Gordon

Gordon doesn’t really buy that idea, however.

"You can easily sit here and say, ‘Oh well, the teams were not conservative enough, there were teams that weren’t having issues.’ Well, I mean, we saw issues on Saturday and we detuned our car from a tire abusive standpoint," the veteran driver said. "We still had a great race car but we were having problems throughout the whole day. We were one of the fortunate ones that never had one that came apart. Every pit stop there were plenty of signs that it could happen to us just like it happened to anybody else.

"I think when you have that many cars that are that close to being on the edge or going over the edge, then the tire is too aggressive or something else needs to be looked at. The teams have all gotten, with the ride heights and everything they are doing, they have gotten more aggressive — no doubt about it. But that is what it’s going to take to win races, and if no tire test happens at that track, then I think that I would question why not."

For now, Gordon can only hope that next Sunday’s 500-lapper at Texas isn’t just a repeat of Fontana, where numerous cautions waved for tire-related incidents.

"I didn’t like that we had to have a caution every 21-25 laps," Gordon said. "To me, Texas is always harder on tires than California. So that is what makes me a little bit concerned. I have loved going to Texas the last few times because I’ve had good race cars, and I love how the groove widens out and you can run all over the racetrack. But I want to make sure we can go through a full fuel run, too."