The root of tire blistering during three days of auto racing practice and testing at Michigan International Speedway before Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 can't be pinned on one particular element. Instead, a Goodyear representative pinned it on two: the combination of excessive heat on a newly repaved track.
"Heat is always a concern," said Chris Curran, vice president for communications and public relations for Goodyear's North American Tire. "The new asphalt produces a tremendous amount of grip. With that grip, you drive faster and there's little tire wear. A way the tire gets rid of heat is wear. When you don't have that wear, it causes blistering."
Tire blistering, Curran explained in an email, is a result of excessive heat build-up inside the tire, and heat is always a concern when a track is repaved. Essentially, a track needs to be broken in, similar to breaking in a new pair of shoes.
"The way I understand it, a newly repaved track is different than a track that's been run on a few times," Curran said.
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MIS has sponsored several events since the completion of the fourth repave in 44 years, including auto manufacturing tests, testing for Mach 1 Racing Schools and Richard Petty Motorsports and it will sponsor several days this summer in which cars are allowed on the track at regulated speeds.
"We didn't put anything on the track until two ARCA tire tests and a Goodyear tire test [in April]," said Brad Kuhbander, MIS' manager of media relations. "We didn't have any traffic prior to the tests, and there's not much activity in the winter time, either."
Yet before last weekend, the venue did not have a high level of precision racing on the track, repaved from late August to mid-November by Ajax Paving Industries of Troy, Mich. in a two-part process that began last June with pit road and continued from August to November, 2011.
Goodyear determined the original tire setup for the Quicken Loans 400 after a Goodyear test in April, when temperatures were in the high 50s and low 60s.
With drivers voicing concerns about tire blistering in the two days before Sunday's Quicken Loans 400, Goodyear brought in more durable left-side tires for the Sprint Cup cars.
MIS president Roger Curtis said after this weekend's races, he planned to schedule a second Goodyear tire test at the facility ahead of August's Pure Michigan 400. Curran said Goodyear has scheduled tire testing at MIS on July 30 and is in the process of determining what tire or tires will be run at the Pure Michigan 400.
SPRINT CUP TRACK REPAVES
Daytona International Speedway (2010-2011)
Talladega Superspeedway (2006)
Pocono Raceway (2011-2012)
Michigan International Speedway (2011-2012)
Kansas Speedway (2012)
About 30 different tires are used through the course of a Sprint Cup season. Tire specifications for each race are based on track evaluation throughout the year and different tires will be used on Sprint Cup cars this weekend at Infineon Speedway in Sonoma, Calif.
Curran said tire blistering has not been prevalent at other tracks this season, including Pocono Raceway, the triangular-shaped track in Long Pond, Pa., repaved last year by the H&K Group of Skippack, Pa. Anthony Jeremias, public relations/external affairs manager for The H&K Group, explained that H&K contractors removed the track at Pocono, restabilized the base and rebuilt the surface.
Fred Hillard, director of corporate development for Ajax, explained that crews at MIS removed 3/4-inch of asphalt from the existing track surface, then replaced 1.5 inches of leveling course and 1.5 inches of wearing course, using a highly pulverized liquid asphalt, all on specifications from International Speedway Corp., which owns 12 tracks that stage Sprint Cup races (including MIS) and works with NASCAR to determine performance criteria for track repaving projects across the country.
Track repaves are sometimes out of necessity -- Daytona International Speedway was repaved after a pot hole opened in Turn 2 during the 2010 Daytona 500 -- and other times strictly for maintenance.
Some drivers are averse to repaves, including the one at MIS, but understand the premise of resurfacing.
"I've spent some time talking with Roger Curtis, the track president, about it," Brad Keselowski told The Blade after the 2011 Pure Michigan 400.
"But he assured us it has to be done in order to make sure we don't have a Daytona situation. We can't have that. In our sport, it's important we get it right when we get here and have fans in the stands. I respect his commitment to doing that."
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.