NASCAR orders mandatory caution to monitor tires
INDIANAPOLIS -- NASCAR officials will throw at least one competition caution flag, starting on Lap 10 of the Allstate 400 on Sunday, to check the wear of tires and make sure they are safe for the event.
"It looks like we will have multiple competition cautions," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "We'll monitor it and see how the day unfolds and how far they can go."
As a precaution, Goodyear trucked in 800 additional tires to Indy Saturday night. The extra tires were prepared for the Pocono race next week. Those tires were taken to an impound area for the teams to mount and prepare at noon ET, two hours before the start of the race.
The Pocono tires only will be used if NASCAR determines the tires the teams have now are not acceptable for Sunday's race.
"In the unlikely event that is necessary, we would throw a caution and bring all the cars to pit road," Pemberton said. "All the teams would be on the same tires at the same time."
NASCAR knew it had a problem during the two practice sessions Saturday when right-side tires were wearing down to the cords for many teams after only five or six laps on the 2.5-mile quad-oval.
Pemberton met with the Cup crew chiefs Sunday morning to discuss the tire situation.
"It was a good meeting," Pemberton said. "We've been through this here before, but what has changed is the new car. We all understand it causes more load on the right side. We're all smart enough to know we're in this together and want to put on a good show for the fans."
Pemberton also said the 400-mile event (160 laps) would not be shortened no matter what happens with the tires during Sunday's event.
All the teams will receive an extra set of tires for the race (10 instead of nine), but they also have the Pocono tires as backups if needed.
"We selected the Pocono tire because it's the most similar to the tire we have at Indy," said Greg Stucker, Goodyear's director of racing. "The left sides are exactly the same. The right sides are slightly softer."
Another problem Saturday was the lack of rubber laid down on the track from the cars making laps in practice. The dust and tiny rubber pieces from the tires were accumulating on the bumper of the cars rather than staying on the track.
"This is one of the most abrasive surfaces we run on," Stucker said. "It always takes a while for the track to get rubbered in."
Stucker said this is the first time since 1994 at Dover, Del., when Goodyear brought in tires from another venue. He said those tires were not backups. The tires were put on the cars and used for that race.
NASCAR did not have a full test at Indy this year. Goodyear conducted a tire test in April with three teams.
NASCAR is expected to go to a more liberal testing plan next season that will allow the teams to test at most Cup facilities.
"Our testing policy is one of the things that changes the most based on the needs of the teams," Pemberton said. "I think we can say today we probably will not have the same testing policy next year."
The Cup race is the only event of the weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Nationwide race and the Craftsman Truck race take place at O'Reilly Raceway Park and few miles away in Clermont, Ind.
Joie Chitwood, president of IMS, was asked if one of those events might move to IMS in the future to help put more rubber down of the asphalt.
"It's been discussed,' Chitwood said. "But right now, we have no plans to add a support series here."
IMS had a tire issue in the controversial 2005 Formula One event which led to only six cars competing in the race.
"The difference with this is that everyone is working together," Chitwood said.
Stucker said every precaution is being taken to en sure no major problems occur during the race.
"The No. 1 issue on everybody's mind is safety," Stucker said. "That's why we're doing what we're doing."
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.