Goodyear executive responds to Brad Keselowski’s criticism of Michigan tire package

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A Goodyear Tire executive responded on Thursday to critical comments Brad Keselowski made earlier this week regarding the new tire package for this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

Keselowski, who was part of the April tire test that helped determine the tire setup for Cup and Xfinity teams, said on Twitter, “Our team (and several others) tested multiple tire compounds and recommended every one of them but this one. In no way do I wanna be associated with this decision.”

Involved in the April test with Keselowski were Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, and Martin Truex Jr.

Compared to what was run at Michigan last year, the new left-side tire features an updated construction that brings it into line with what is run at other speedways and a new compound to introduce more wear. The new right-side tire is a single tread compound tire (last year was a multi-zone tread tire) with a new compound that will introduce more wear and run cooler.

Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint” to clarify what package NASCAR will be using at the 2-mile track.

“Brad did not run this exact combination that we’re racing at Michigan,” Stucker said. “He ran the right-side compound by itself with the 2017 compound, the left-side compound. The left-side compound is meant to give a little bit more grip that perhaps we’re taking away with the right side. I hear him. He felt like he was down on grip with that particular run. But he didn’t run the combination as we’re going to have it this weekend at Michigan. I’m hoping once he gets there this weekend he’ll feel that the right side that we ran, combined with that left side, makes for a raceable package. Because all the other guys who ran the right side felt it was at least as good as the tire we raced in 2017 and perhaps even a little bit better.”

Stucker added: “Brad’s involved in a lot of our testing through the Penske organization. He provides a lot of good feedback. He really is a good tester because he’s got a good feel. He’s got good ideas and it is important for us during a tire test to get that feedback from the drivers. It’s a big piece. But that’s not the only thing we look at. We also look at the date that we generate, the data that the team’s generate and you rely on good engineering judgement as well to pull all that together to make the right decision.”

Stucker said the goal of the tire test in April was not “to go faster,” saying the track is the fastest on the circuit, with tops speeds reaching 212 mph and 175 mph in the corners.

“What we were really trying to do is create some differentiation between the top speed and let’s say the mid-corner speed,” Stucker said. “If you find the right balance between the on-throttle and off-throttle time, that’s what creates the opportunity for good racing. If everybody’s just on the throttle hard with very little off-throttle time, it kind of equates the field.

“We’ve been working with NASCAR trying to figure out, ‘What can we do at Michigan to try to create a little bit more differentiation between the on-throttle and off-throttle time?’ Then that kind of puts it in the hand of the team to try to manage that. One way we can do that is through tire wear. As tires wears they tend to lose some grip, which means you can’t run the corners as hard, so you have to manage the car a little bit more at that time. That hopefully creates different opportunities for different guys. That’s why you see guys start searching around for different grooves, move up the race track trying to find some grip … It tends to lead to good racing.”

NASCAR America: Team Penske drivers show untapped potential

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The domination of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch has made it difficult to judge the remainder of the field, but the two winless Penske Racing drivers Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski have nevertheless shown untapped potential according to NASCAR America analyst Parker Kligerman.

There have been some great opportunities for the Team Penske drivers to interject themselves into the winner’s list. Blaney had one of the cars to beat earlier this season at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Food City 500.

“I actually picked (Blaney) to win Bristol this year and I was looking really smart for a little bit of that race until he got in that wreck while leading,” Kligerman said. “The reason I believe that is because himself and Jeremy Bullins have a great rapport and going over to Team Penske officially in that 12 car just felt like all the stars were aligning to have more performances like we saw at Pocono, holding off Kevin Harvick in the closing laps.”

Blaney’s Bristol crash sent him to the garage in 35th. Busch won that race.

Despite failing to find victory lane yet this year, Blaney has led 418 laps – more than seven of the top 10 drivers in the points.

Blaney keeps putting the No. 12 team in position to win, but the same has not been as uniformly true of the No. 2 of Keselowski. And that has created some frustration.

Keselowski finished second to Harvick in Atlanta Motor Speedway during the second week of the season, but has earned only two more top-fives since.

“(The team members) believe what I believe, which is that Team Penske cars are some of the best right now beside Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs. If you were to say, ‘who is the best car right now who could beat Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch?’ Immediately I think Brad Keselowski and the 2 car. So why have they not been able to do it yet? That is what has perplexed them.”

For more on what Kligerman has to say about Team Penske, watch the video above.

NASCAR adds tire tests at Texas, Phoenix

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In an update to the rule book, NASCAR is adding tire tests Aug. 14-15 at Texas Motor Speedway and Oct. 2-3 at ISM Raceway in Arizona.

The Texas tire test is scheduled to have a team each from Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske and Furniture Row Racing. The test is to determine tires for the fall playoff race at Texas.

The Phoenix test is scheduled to have a team each from Chip Ganassi Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. That test is set to find a tire combination for the 2019 races there.

The Atlanta Motor Speedway tire test will now be Oct. 16-17. It was pushed back from Aug. 14-15.

Also in the rule bulletin:

Effective July 11 in the Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR will use owner points instead of attempts to qualify in determining provisionals.

Also, when Truck qualifying is canceled, two spots (positions 26 and 27 in the lineup) will be awarded based on the fastest combined practice speeds to vehicles not yet assigned a starting spot. The top 25 spots will be determined by owner points. Filling out the final spots will remain the same as stated in the rule book.

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Friday 5: Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on same page about Roush cars

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The sample size is small, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said Matt Kenseth’s impact already has been felt at Roush Fenway Racing.

In his first race weekend with the team, Kenseth noted similar issues with the car that Stenhouse has had this season.

“Talking with him so far, it’s definitely different than what he had been driving, and he’s got a lot of the exact same complaints and feedback,’’ Stenhouse told NBC Sports about Kenseth’s comments last weekend at Kansas Speedway. “That’s good. Just trying to figure out how to fix those complaints and feedback. That’s the biggest issue.’’

Stenhouse admitted it was reassuring to hear Kenseth’s feedback.

“I think it’s something that I’ve been struggling with in the cars for a while and to hear him reiterate that after one weekend is nice,’’ Stenhouse said. “The biggest thing for me at least confidence-wise is I’m giving the same feedback that he is.’’

Stenhouse said last weekend’s schedule made it difficult to work closely with Kenseth. Two Cup practices were condensed into one session after morning rain impacted the schedule. That didn’t allow for a debrief between the drivers and teams between sessions.

Stenhouse said that today’s schedule — weather permitting — should provide a better chance for both drivers to talk between practices. Both are in the All-Star Race. Kenseth, who won the event in 2004, will be making his 18th start in the non-points race, and Stenhouse will be making his third start.

This is the second of five consecutive weekends Kenseth will drive the No. 6. before Trevor Bayne returns to the car at Sonoma in June.

2. What to expect?

There are ideas, but nobody knows quite for sure with this aero package. Provided weather doesn’t cancel practices, drivers should get an idea what their cars will be like in practice today.

The package is similar to what Xfinity teams ran at Indianapolis last year.

The package this weekend will include:

# A 7/8 inch restrictor plate, marking the first time restrictor plates have been used at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

# Aero ducts. These will be used to push air from the front of the car through the front wheel well to create a bigger wake behind the car. That is intended to help a trailing car close at an easier rate.

# The rear spoiler will be 6 inches high and have 2 12-inch ears on either side to also help create a larger wake for trailing cars.

# A 2014-style splitter. This was done to balance the car aerodynamically with the changes to the rear of the car.

So how will the cars run?

Here’s what Elliott Sadler told Kevin Harvick on Harvick’s SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show this week:

“Kind of what I learned about it at Indy last year reminded me a lot about driving a Truck where the car is very draggy, and you’re not going to be able to get away from each other a bunch,’’ Sadler said. “It’s not going to be pack racing. But I think the guy leading the race now is not going to be able to pull away because you’re going to be able to draft up to him some. The cars are definitely going to drive easier because of the drag that is in the car and the lack of the speed with the restrictor plates. It’s definitely going to create a different feeling when side by side … the third guy in line is going to get a good draft up to the guys if you’re running side by side.

“What I learned at Indy is it’s not going to make a 20th-place car all of a sudden come win the All-Star Race. The good teams and the good drivers are still going to be the guys to beat. What I learned at Indy was that last restart we had, I restarted 12th and drove all the way to the lead before I got tight, and we fell back to fourth. I would have never done that without that package because it keeps everybody more bunched up. I think that’s what we’re going to see in the All-Star Race.’’

3. Stepping up

With the season a third of the way through (12 of 36 points races), here’s a look at who has made the biggest jump in points from this time last year to this season:

Aric Almirola has improved 15 spots, going from 25th at this time last year with Richard Petty Motorsports to 10th this season for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Kurt Busch has improved nine spots, going from 14th at this time a year ago to fifth this season for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Joey Logano has improved eight spots, going from 10th at this time last year to second this year for Team Penske.

4. Staying through the end

With the damaged vehicle policy allowing teams six minutes to make repairs or they’re out of the race, it has made it more difficult for drivers to build a lengthy streak of running at the finish.

Joey Logano is the exception. He’s been running at the finish in 31 consecutive races. Next on the list is Alex Bowman and Darrell Wallace Jr. at 12 races each.

5. No traction compound

A Charlotte Motor Speedway spokesperson said track officials have no plans to add traction compound in the corners this weekend.

There was no traction compound added to the track for last year’s All-Star Race, but track officials decided to add it leading up to the Coca-Cola 600 to enhance passing.

It makes sense not to have the traction compound this weekend with the different rule package Cup teams are using. Add too many variables, and it would be hard to distinguish how much impact the aero package has on the racing.

Kevin Harvick says NASCAR should share any gambling revenue with teams

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Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick wants NASCAR to share any gambling revenue with teams and not keep the money itself.

The Supreme Court’s decision Monday to strike down a 1992 federal law that banned commercial sports betting has states seeking to allow such gaming as soon as possible and leagues looking to collect money off it.

“I want my team to be taken care of,” Harvick said Tuesday night on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show. “That’s really the main thing that kind of falls into line here is something of a share in revenue comes down the pipe and even if it is a 1 percent share of revenue, I don’t want it all to go to the league. I think it should be shared with the teams.’’

Harvick said on his show “Happy Hours” that any revenue would be good for teams and help make them — and their charters — more valuable.

“I want to see a business model that works for the current owners and takes these charters from being what they are today to being what something of an NBA franchise or an NFL franchise (is),’’ said Harvick, who closed his racing team after the 2011 season. “I’m not saying from a dollar standpoint but just from (the point that) somebody that can afford to come in and own a race team to say ‘I want to do that because it’s really not going to cost me that much money and down the road it might be worth ‘X’ as we go further down the line.’

“That’s the point we have to get to if you want to make it a real league and make it so that the charters are worth what they need to be. This would be another example of getting that revenue stream a little bit better than what it is today.’’

The NBA has stated it seeks an “integrity fee” of 1 percent of the amount wagered on any of its events. Other leagues also are expected to seek such payment.

Harvick, who has won a series-high five races this year, said NASCAR shouldn’t be left out.

“If we could do something like that, that would be great for everybody,’’ he said.

Harvick also wants to see other changes to the revenue stream for teams. He noted the TV money that comes into the sport. Currently, tracks collect 65 percent, teams receive 25 percent and NASCAR takes 10 percent of the TV money.

International Speedway Corp., citing leading industry sources, stated in its 2017 annual report that the sport’s TV package is valued $8.2 billion over 10 years. The deal goes through the 2024 season.

ISC stated in its 2017 annual report that it received approximately $337.4 million in fiscal year 2017 from TV broadcast and ancillary rights fees.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. stated in its 2017 annual report that it expects its broadcasting revenue to be about $217 million for 2018.

“I think that there should be a bigger piece of the pie that comes out of the TV money that goes to the teams because that’s really the root of Cup racing,” Harvick said. “If you don’t have the teams, and you don’t have those owners that are in there in the garage wanting to be there, then we all don’t have anything to race.’’

Michael Waltrip Racing folded after the 2015 season. Roush Fenway Racing downsized from four to three teams in 2013 and then cut back to two teams in 2017. Richard Childress Racing went from three to two teams for this season. Furniture Row Racing went from two teams to one for this year. BK Racing filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February and recently listed total liabilities as $37.7 million.

Team Penske grew from two to three Cup teams this year. StarCom Racing debuted with two races last year and is running the full season this year, leasing a charter from Richard Childress Racing.

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