Speeds pick up at MIS during tire test session


BROOKLYN, Mich. — Clint Bowyer expressed some frustration with the results of the first weeks of his NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

His car flipped during the Budweiser Duels on Feb. 20. Three days later, the engine of his car blew up during the Daytona 500. He blew a tire with one lap to go in the Auto Club 400 on March 23, which wiped out a potential top-five finish.

"Yeah, that was awesome," Bowyer said Wednesday, with a twinge of sarcasm.

"We've just had some crummy luck this year."

This week's Goodyear tire testing session at Michigan International Speedway was a necessary break for Bowyer. Not just for his racing psyche, but in terms of long-term planning.

"These tire tests and things we're doing in preparation for that, you've got to keep things shook up a little bit in this sport, because of the engineering," Bowyer said.

"The simulation is so powerful. If you keep searching a little bit, it makes for a pretty good environment. It puts the destiny of the weekend more into the decision making of the driver and the crew chief."

Bowyer was one of five Sprint Cup drivers who concluded a two-day session at MIS, joining Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, and Trevor Bayne.

This week's session was scheduled late last year but came two weeks after the Auto Club 400, where Bowyer was one of at least a dozen drivers who had tire blowouts.

"As far as California goes, I don't think we'll see any issues here, but a lot of that was brought on by the teams, running really low tire pressure, the camber, some of the angles the tires were at because of the banking there," MIS president Roger Curtis said. "This is something the drivers and the crew chiefs, that they're going to have to measure now. It goes back in the team's hands.”

MIS was plagued by tire issues in June, 2012; less than nine months after the two-mile oval was repaved, tire blistering was an issue during testing and practice sessions for the Quicken Loans 400 because of a combination of the excessive heat and track pavement that was still fresh.

"The longer we ran on the race track, the faster it got and the warmer it got," said Greg Biffle, who has won four Sprint Cup races at MIS, including the 2013 Quicken Loans 400. "That will change with the age of the race track and, obviously, that's why we're doing this tire test here."

The drivers who tested Wednesday — when temperatures were in the high 40s and low 50s — didn't notice tires as much as they did speed.

Earnhardt registered 215 miles per hour on the track straightaway, while Bowyer said he reached 217.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.