NASCAR: Samsung stung drivers
By Mike Mulhern
FORT WORTH, Texas ó The Samsung 500 was a disastrous day for many of the sport’s biggest stars:
– Jeff Gordon parked his ill-handling car early, after brushing the wall, and demanded that crew chief Steve Letarte come up with a new chassis setup. He returned to the track an hour or so later, ran a few laps, and then parked for good. He finished 43rd.
“This was about trying to find a problem we’ve been dealing with all weekend ó not having the handling and comfort,” Gordon said. “We’ve tried every setup we can, but none of them seem to work. I was just hanging on every single lap.
“That was basically (Jimmie Johnson’s) setup we had; so I don’t think it’s a setup thing. Something else is going on.
“I can’t remember that last time we struggled this bad. We have to find the answer, because we can’t go through the year like this.”
– Greg Biffle had electrical trouble, needing repairs, and finished 39th.
– Martin Truex Jr. broke a valve spring and his engine eventually broke with five laps to go.
– But the day’s biggest surprise was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who led 31 laps early, from the pole, but who faded in the second half of the race and struggled home 12th, a lap down.
“We just chased the handling the entire day,” Earnhardt said. “We had it too tight at the end.
“It’s frustrating. Just a one-thousandths of an inch adjustment can mess things up.”
Tony Eury Jr., Earnhardt’s crew chief, said: “It was a pretty rough day for us. We kept making a few adjustments and then near the end we made a pretty huge adjustment to try to go toward what Jimmie had …. and it backfired on us.
“We definitely have to pick it up.”
One thing that drivers and crews weren’t complaining about ó the tires. Mark Martin, who finished eighth here, called these tires “acceptable. The Atlanta tires were not; I’ve driven these cars 30 years and I’ve never driven on anything like at Atlanta.
“These tires were very acceptable; I give them high marks.”
But what they were complaining about was NASCAR’s winged car, a big question mark here, particularly since NASCAR allowed no testing at this tricky track.
Jimmie Johnson didn’t back away from the issue: “Clean air was really a big plus. I was really shocked about how these cars drove in traffic.
“I really think we need to look at some changes so these cars can have a little more downforce. They are safer; they (NASCAR) are doing a lot of things the right way. But we need to look at some changes to help these cars.
“The car is so dependent on aerodynamics that the guy up front has much more of an advantage than he’s ever had,” he added.
What has Carl Edwards figured out?
“Carl spent a lot of time developing the car of tomorrow for Jack Roush,” Johnson said. “I watched him a lot during the race, and I could see his car get tight or loose.
“But we were only a step or two off, where we’d been eight steps off.”
Edwards was joking about those complaints: “Heck, yes, I could have gone a lot faster if I’d wanted to.”
Then he laughed. “Well, what do you want me to say?”
More seriously, Edwards addressed the issue of the quality of competition that Johnson raised.
“Let me make my viewpoint clear: A lot of people are saying the races are boring,” Edwards said. “The fact is these are the 43 best drivers in the world. We’ve got 900 horsepower. We’re going 200 mph. And it’s a spectacle. It’s supposed to be a spectacle; it’s not supposed to be like driving down the interstate.
“I’m tired of the media making up stories. I didn’t have a problem with the car at Atlanta. And as long as the tires don’t blow out, I don’t have any problems.”
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