Multiple drivers had their day ended at Indianapolis Motor Speedway because of tire failures.
A pair of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin, as well as Alex Bowman, suffered big hits from their blown tires. Jones crashed in Turn 3 on lap 76, Bowman in Turn 1 on lap 134, and Hamlin from the race lead in Turn 1 on lap 155.
Ryan Newman was the first one to blow a tire, crashing in Turn 3 on lap 42. William Byron blew a left front going down the backstretch past the race’s halfway mark.
NASCAR Cup Series teams had nine sets of tires for the race, and Goodyear brought the same right-side combination used in last year’s event. However, the left side combination was new after a construction update.
Teams used this combination of right- and left-side tires last weekend at Pocono, but conditions were different for Indianapolis. The high downforce package is hard on tires, and there were high loads on the cars because of the long straightaways on the 2.5-mile rectangular oval. The air temperature was also about 20 degrees hotter than the 2019 race, which ran in early September.
“The importance of air pressure, and getting it right, is something that we cautioned about before the race,” said Goodyear’s director of racing Greg Stucker. “With the high amount of downforce on the Cup cars down the straightaways, we asked teams to respect our recommended pressures so as not to hurt the tire. Early in the race, without having the benefit of any practice, teams obviously had to be very mindful of that.
“Most of the race was run in the heat, and teams were obviously searching for grip, while several issues happened later in the event when track temperature cooled off a bit and speeds picked up. We had our engineers on the ground all race, working with teams as we do every week, trying to emphasize the importance of right-front pressures.”
Kevin Harvick won the race and said his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team had no issues throughout the day. Harvick did know that Hamlin had been seeing issues with his tires and was keeping the pressure on the No. 11 Toyota when Hamlin crashed with seven laps to go.
Hamlin said it was like “roulette” whether a tire was going to stay together or not. A third Joe Gibbs Racing driver, Kyle Busch, also admitted he battled vibrations throughout the race.