Commentary

Tire issues aside, at least NASCAR put on a competitive show

NASCAR isn't the first league to face a tire crisis on race day. Look at the CART debacle at Texas in 2001 and the F1 embarrassment at Indy three years ago. At least NASCAR ran a competitive race (sort of), writes Terry Blount.

Updated: August 5, 2008, 3:30 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Give NASCAR some credit. At least they ran a race (well, sort of) with a full field Sunday at Indianapolis.

That's more than we can say about the Formula One event at Indy in 2005 or the CART event at Texas Motor Speedway in 2001.

The U.S. Grand Prix F1 race at the Brickyard three years ago also had major tire issues when all the Michelin teams decided not to compete. That led to Michael Schumacher earning the easiest victory of his remarkable career, a laughable triumph over a six-car field.

So Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials had been through this kind of thing before, but IMS owner Tony George said people should stop blaming the track. George did not attend the event. He is vacationing in British Columbia.

"The track won't change next year," George told the Indianapolis Star Monday. "So if [NASCAR] wants to come back, they better figure it out because I don't think the fans want to come back and see that.

"Figuring it out will only come with getting the car and tire combination right, and that requires actually spending the time and effort to do something about it."

[+] EnlargeAdam Jordan
AP Photo/Tom StricklandAdam Jordan, tire specialist for the No. 99 Ford, inspects the road-weary Goodyears.

Clearly, George was a little upset that his storied facility was under attack. The diamond-grinding process at Indy makes the pavement abrasive. But to hear some people describe it, you would think it had those reverse spikes like at a rental-car return.

The Indy 500 ran 200 laps on the 2.5-mile rectangle without any problems. The open-wheel cars are much lighter, but they also were racing 50 mph faster than the Cup cars, and did it for 40 more laps.

But American open-wheel racing also had its day of infamy. CART opted to pack up and go home without racing at TMS seven years ago (the beginning of the end of that series) because of driver dizziness from speeds in excess of 230 mph in practice.

More than 60,000 fans showed up that Sunday only to learn they had wasted their time and money.

TMS sued CART and won because TMS president Eddie Gossage had copies of letters he sent warning CART officials they needed to test at Texas before the race.

NASCAR didn't have an open test at Indy this year, but league officials did a better job of handling a crisis situation than F1 and CART did in similar situations.

However, it's a little like saying your hog won a beauty contest at the pig farm. It's still ugly, no matter how much you dress it up.

Bad call by Eury
Sometimes you hit a homer, sometimes you strike out.

Crew chief Tony Eury Jr. won the Cup race at Michigan for Dale Earnhardt Jr., gambling on fuel mileage at the end. But Eury lost the Allstate 400 for Earnhardt on Sunday, or at least ruined any chance Earnhardt had of winning.

Eury elected to pit out of sequence seven laps into the race, knowing a competition caution was coming a few laps later.

Earnhardt stayed on the track when the yellow came on Lap 15. It got him to the front briefly, but he stayed out too long. A tire went down and he was forced to pit under green.

He dropped to 38th, one lap down, and spent the rest of the race trying to make up for that mistake. Earnhardt did a heck of a job to finish 12th.

Another near-miss by Roush
Carl Edwards finished a strong second for Roush Fenway Racing, but team owner Jack Roush still sees another conspiracy against his drivers. Everyone is out to get them. His paranoia knows no bounds.

"We only missed by an inch," Roush said of Edwards' finish. "This is a game of inches, but Goodyear didn't give us a chance to test here. They brought the other manufacturers here and didn't give us a chance. We were one change behind all the time."

Edwards was ahead of 41 other cars at the end, including Earnhardt, Brian Vickers and Kurt Busch, the three drivers who tested at Indy in April.

But Jimmie Johnson, after a call for a two-tire stop at the end by crew chief Chad Knaus, held off Edwards in the final seven laps in the tire fiasco event.

Roush was asked what NASCAR and Goodyear could do to prevent this problem in the future.

"You need to go talk to Chad Knaus," Roush said. "He said it wasn't going to be a problem with this tire. He and Goodyear have something figured out that the rest of us don't."

Knaus chuckled when told of Roush's comment

"Kind of cool he listens to what I say," Knaus said. "I guess we got him thinking, don't we?"

Joe Gibbs Racing still top dog
The NASCAR-mandated horsepower reduction for Toyota didn't keep Kyle Busch from giving Joe Gibbs Racing a record 14th victory this season in the Nationwide Series on Saturday night at O'Reilly Raceway Park.

JGR officials insist the previous 15- to 20-horsepower advantage wasn't why they were dominating the series. But the .68-mile oval of ORP is not the place where the horsepower change will show up.

Two road races are next -- Montreal and Watkins Glen. The race on the 2-mile oval at Michigan on Aug. 16 will be the first real test of the horsepower reduction.

If a JGR driver wins that one, the team can strut in Victory Lane and say, "I told you so."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter