Struck a cord: Tire issues plague teams in Toyota Owners 400

Reed Sorenson, driver of the No. 36 Chevrolet, drives down pit road while his car is on fire during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2014 in Richmond, Va.

Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images

Richmond International Raceway is often known for its sparks on the track, but during Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race it was fires and tires that dominated the storylines. 

Much like Friday’s Nationwide Series race, teams battled severe tire wear throughout the night. Few teams were immune from the issue, as long green flag runs wore the tire to the cords in many cases.

Teams could typically go a maximum of 55 laps before the right front tires began showing cords and causing issues. Typically, when the tires began to come apart the cords would wrap around the tire assembly, brake hoses and other items under the hood, causing a fire behind the wheel well.

Cole Whitt, Clint Bowyer, Reed Sorenson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all suffered tire failure issues that led to large fires behind the right front tires.

Sorenson’s fire was the largest of the night, as his entire car engulfed in flames before he was pulled out of the car on pit road by a crew member from Kasey Kahne’s team.

"Seems like the rubber got to the oil lines and the brake lines and that was what was burning was the oil and the fuel," Sorenson said. "So I got out of there as quick as I could and to try and not inhale all that smoke. Definitely not what you want to be inside of."

Jimmie Johnson had a promising night ruined when he fell back with a tire issue and was forced to pit road on Lap 289. The incident was not the last for Johnson and the No. 48 team, as they would be forced back to pit road with a flat right front on Lap 368.

"Really thought we had a decent car and was going to run in the top-five, top 10 at the worst," he said. "Then we had one run where we cut a right-front and the next run another right-front. Not exactly sure why we had that issue, but we did have back-to-back tire issues there. That really just kind of put an end to our night."

For Kyle Busch, who avoided tire issues and finished the night third, the trend of corded tires was not the result of teams pushing the envelope.

"The problem is they put a harder inside edge on the right front and right rear here, and that’s eventually where we ride most of the time around the racetrack on that part of the tire," Busch said. "Why they went harder on that, I’m not sure.  They could have probably left the same inside edge and probably went a little softer on the outside edge of the out sides, but it’s just too hard and too hard of a compound for here. 

"We were all basically on ice here, it was just like having a hard tire out there," he said. "The effort that they tried to gain with the left‑side tire softening it up, you could just take the left sides off, it didn’t feel like they did anything. Really tough for all of us to, for one, keep the tires under our cars, and for putting a harder compound on the outside edge having it cord and come apart and actually it’s supposed to be more durable I think was just not the right way to go obviously for Goodyear."

While his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon was immune from tire issues throughout the night, the second-place finisher explained he is "not a fan of the dual-tread zone" tire and called for more research.

"We had it at Texas. The cars just slid the front getting in the corner. It was the same case here," he said. "Just has no grip in the front getting in the corner. But I also think that we’re doing a great job with this tire making our car go fast. So while I don’t like the way it drives, I also think we’re very competitive with it, so I’m not going to say a whole lot."