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Published: Monday, 7/28/2008

Tire woes shred race continuity

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

INDIANAPOLIS The tire troubles during yesterday s Allstate 400 at the Brickyard cost some drivers a lot of money, and others a lot of points as The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup moves into its most critical stage only a half dozen races remain before the field for the lucrative Chase is set.

But it wasn t the money or the points that had many drivers and crew members troubled following the end of the race. They were worried that having any semblance of continuity in the race sliced and diced into bits and pieces by an endless string of competition cautions left the fans as the ones who really got cheated in the deal.

Former series champion Matt Kenseth, who had started 10th in the field, was one of the first victims of the excessive tire wear and had his right rear tire explode and wipe out the fender on his DeWalt Ford fewer than 50 laps into the race. Kenseth had to take the car to the garage for extensive repairs, and limped home 38th.

This is one of the two biggest races of the year, and to never have this tire here before and not come and do an open test and to work on these things and work on the tires, it s pretty darn disappointing, Kenseth said. I feel bad for the fans; we re running three-quarters speed because we re worried of the tires blowing out, and they got blown out every eight laps. So, I m pretty disappointed.

Second-place finisher Carl Edwards said he hoped the fans would be forgiving about the debacle.

I heard people go on tirades. Look, everybody is doing their job. Everyone is trying their hardest, Edwards said. Every once in a while I run into the wall or act like I m gonna punch somebody after the race or something like that. Everybody makes mistakes. I just hope the fans understand this that nobody wants to see this happen Goodyear the least, I m sure. So that s what it is.

Steve Letarte, the crew chief for Jeff Gordon, said he was not going to pile on and blame Goodyear for the mess, but he was troubled over the product placed in front of the fans.

It was the most boring race I have ever called, but I don t know that you can blame anybody, he said. The fans they have just as much of a right to be mad as anybody. I am mad that I had to race that way. As series we maybe need to be a little more tight as a family. We don t want to blame one guy, we all came out here, and we put on a good show. It wasn t the race everybody wanted.

HORNISH 21ST: Sam Hornish Jr., racing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time in a stock car, finished 21st.

The Defiance native, who had qualified poorly and started 38th in the field, had moved into the top 10 in speed in the final practice session on Saturday. The three-time champion of the IndyCar Series who won the 2006 Indy 500 here, Hornish came from deep in the field several times to record one of his best finishes of the season

The big thing for me was just continuing to move forward, Hornish said. I felt like I raced pretty hard today, maybe a little bit more so than some of the other guys.

At the end, we pretty much held our own.

NO SMOKE: Tony Stewart, the defending champion in the Brickyard event and a two-time winner of the race, started 14th, worked his way up as high as fourth in the field, then fell deep in the pack as tire problems compounded handling issues with his No. 20 Home Depot Toyota. Stewart struggled in 23rd, his worst finish ever in the race.

Just a tough day, said Stewart, an unbelievably tough day.



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