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Not a good day for tire company at Las Vegas racetrack

Staff Report • Mar 13, 2007 at 12:51 PM

There was nothing good about Goodyear this weekend.

Once again, engineers at the tire giant overreacted to fast testing speeds and slapped the hardest tire ever created on the left side of every car that competed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

As it turned out, they might as well have just grabbed a fire hose, soaked turn four, dropped the temperature to 15 degrees and waved the green flag.

I know the intentions were good - safety of the drivers should always be the number one concern - but it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to realize that what's good for tire durability isn't always going to work in a race.

Somewhere in between all the equations, numbers and theories on tire compounds, somebody forgot that a stock car race was going to break out.

When the green flag drops, 43 guys spend a few hours under the afternoon sun driving the wheels off their cars in an effort to find a tenth of a second somewhere in order to get around the car in front of them.

When you don't give these guys grip on the front left side, you end up with a flurry of yellow flags and a lot of scrap metal.

As far as safety precautions go, the smaller fuel cells had cars in the pits often enough to keep the left side tires from coming apart, and that should have been enough.

Hopefully Goodyear will come back with a softer left front tire next year, because the new layout at Las Vegas will make it one of the most exciting 1.5-mile tracks on the planet.

Just look at the last lap of the Busch race. Jeff Burton drove a previously nonexistent high groove right past Kyle Busch, passing him on the frontstretch and crossing the finish line just ahead of Busch's car, which took the checkered flag backward in the midst of a spin.

All this on a track where side-by-side racing was unheard of on the old layout.

Of course Tony Stewart isn't a fan of the new Vegas, but that should come as no surprise.

Burton summed it up at Bristol a couple weeks ago when he said that it's the drivers' job to make a race boring by pulling away from the field and NASCAR's job to make a race exciting for the fans by encouraging closer competition.

Guess what? The racing action is going to be closer at Las Vegas thanks to the new layout, and that is a victory for the fans.

While Stewart may have enjoyed single-file racing where passing was as rare as intelligent insight from FOX's own Darrell Waltrip, the fans weren't crazy about it, and that's what counts.

Stewart would do well to remember that if there were no fans in the grandstands to rush out to Home Depot to buy two-by-fours, Home Depot would find a better use for its sponsorship dollars.

• Ward Burton and Morgan-McClure finally broke through, qualifying 30th and making the grid for the first time this season.

Their celebration was short-lived, however, as Robby Gordon decided that lap 10 was as good a time as any to go three-wide in the middle of a turn on slippery left-side tires.

Gordon's daredevil dive to the apron wound up taking out Burton and Casey Mears. Ironically enough, Gordon made it through the crash nearly unscathed.

He even stuck around long enough to almost take out eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson with another boneheaded move in the closing laps.

• The Food City 500 will mark Bristol's 50th consecutive sellout for a Cup race, dating back to 1982.

To put it in perspective, Reed Sorenson, Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch weren't even born on that day in '82.

Waltrip was the winner that afternoon, giving him his sixth straight win at Bristol in front of a sellout crowd of 30,000.

• While blasting Las Vegas Motor Speedway Chairman Chris Powell for the changes at Vegas, Stewart felt compelled to give Speedway Motorsports Inc., Bruton Smith and anyone else who would listen a little bit of free business advice.

"The last time I checked, Bristol's the most sought-after ticket on the circuit with a three-year waiting list," he said. "If I had a billion dollars, I'd build me another daggone Bristol and put me 160,000 seats in it like Bruton did and laugh all the way to the bank."

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