The Long and Short of It
Brad Keselowski isnât afraid to question why something is or isnât done in NASCAR. Heâs inquisitive, reflective and thoughtful. Some ideas lead to fruitful discussions and some donât.
Either way, Keselowski looks ahead, never satisfied with what is happening. It doesnât mean he has the right answers for every issue or that every idea is wrong. What he does is make others ponder issues he raises.
Keselowski looks at the racing in NASCAR and knows it can be better. Certainly many fans say the same thing. But how? Aerodynamics dictate so much about the sport. So what then?
How about the tires? Keselowski wonders if it would be better for NASCAR to consider a soft and hard compound similar to what is done in Formula 1 and the Izod IndyCar Series, which uses two different tire compounds at road and street course events
Hereâs how Keselowski explains his notion:
âI think our sport has evolved to where aerodynamics are generating the majority of the grip in the racecars, which naturally creates an issue when weâre in a pack to where the guy thatâs in the front has a supreme advantage over the guys that are in the back â and that goes against I think what we all consider quality racing.
âAs a sport we have a decision to make, we can either step backwards and remove aerodynamics from racing â and I think we all know that itâs impossible to really move backwards because weâll keep pushing and weâll find it back as we did with this new car.â
Keslowski notes that when the current Cup car was introduced in 2007 it produced about 1,700 pounds of downforce. Teams have refined the car to where it produces about 2,200 pounds now, an increase of more than 20 percent he notes.
âThe teams persevered and we will with the money and resources that we dedicate,ââ Keselowski said. âSo as you look forward to the issue of how to make the racing better, you can try to take a step backwards and remove aerodynamics or we can try to take a step forward and include new ideas that improve the quality of the racing.
âOne of the easiest is to look over at what F1 has with their soft and hard (tire) options that create the possibility for coming in (pitting) at the end of the race and changing compounds and overcoming the aerodynamic deficiencies of the cars that run toward the back of the pack, and I think that will improve quality of the racing for us all.â
Interesting concept. Can it work in NASCAR since nearly all of its races are on ovals as opposed to Formula 1 and IndyCar?
Not everyone is convinced.
Mark Martin calls Keselowskiâs idea âbrilliantâ but he also notes itâs flawed. Martin says this reminds him too much about what happened with the tires when Goodyear and Hoosier were competing in Cup.
âYou canât fuss with the tires,â Martin says. âYouâve got the fastest tire that you can put on now. If you make them any faster, theyâre dangerous.
âBrad Keselowski didnât live the tire war. He isnât permanently injured from that. Many of us drivers carry permanent injuries for life from that. I know the cars are better now. I know the walls are better now. We donât need that.
âThey bring the best tire they can bring and have but if you made one that was worse ... put him out on them and letâs see if he still wants them. Letâs see how he likes them.â
Jeff Burton admits that âitâs always healthy that weâre looking to improve our sport,â but heâs not convinced this is the right idea.
âIâm not a proponent nor an opponent of talking about different ways to come up with better racing,â Burton says. âI think thereâs been a general consensus that Goodyear has done a really, really good job on the tire, maybe too good. Maybe the tire needs to fall off a little more so that we lose speed as the run goes on.
âThings that we can do in the sport that donât jeopardize the integrity of the sport to make the competition better, then we always need to be looking at that. Whether the tires will do that or not, I just donât know.â
Stu Grant, Goodyearâs general manager of global race tires, said there hasnât been any work on such a plan.
Grant notes that tire usage in NASCAR is greater than in IndyCar and Formula 1 because there are so many more teams and that would create among many issues.
âFrom a logistical standpoint, there is a lot of cost associated with that for everybody in the sport, for us as well the competitors as you pass on ... all that inventory on a second set of tires,â he says.
Grant says thereâs no way Goodyear could provide a softer tire than what it has.
âIf I did it, they would fail,â he notes. âThey would blister. They would wear out. They would lose air and we would crash. Nobody wants that.
âThe only option would be to make a harder tire. In the end itâs NASCARâs call. Weâre the tire supplier. We have not had any discussion with NASCAR about that. We have not looked at that.
âWe would have to make a worse tire that they would have to run. Is that something the sport wants? Iâm not so sure.â
by Dustin Long
Follow Dustin on Twitter: @DustinLong