LOUDON, N.H.–Jamie McMurray had had run 28 laps in NASCAR Sprint Cup final practice Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when his No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet began to chatter across the asphalt with a left rear tire down.
McMurray spun in Turn 3 and hit the wall in an accident that was nearly identical to the one suffered by his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, in opening Cup practice on Friday.
“I actually felt it pop or go flat really early–I just couldn’t get slowed down,” McMurray said after bringing his car to the garage for repairs. “Every time I got on the brakes, it wheel-hopped. I felt like I was going to turn right.
“I was trying to get the car slowed down, and I knew for a long time I just couldn’t get slowed down enough.”
Montoya, who did more damage to his car on Friday, went to a backup but won’t have to drop to the rear for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 because his mishap occurred before qualifying.
McMurray, though, was loath to give up the 11th-place starting position he earned during time trials, because that would mean dropping to the rear for the start of the race.
“We’re going to try to fix it because we qualified 11th, and it’s really hard to pass here,” he explained. “And I thought our car was really good in practice. It’s definitely the best car I’ve had here at Loudon. So we want to race this car.
“It’s mainly cosmetic. So if they can get the panels out and get it where it’s presentable, I think we’re going to try to race this car tomorrow.”
When the Cup garage closed at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, McMurray, crew chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 crew were working feverishly to repair the damage. NASCAR gave the team an extra 30 minutes after closing and will allow the No. 1 crew to resume work 30 minutes before the garage opens at 7 a.m. Sunday.
By then, a fabricator from the EGR shop in Concord, N.C., should have arrived by plane to help complete the repairs.
While other teams were filing out of the garage Saturday, McMurray stayed with his team, circling his car and inspecting the progress.
“I honestly thought we had a top two or three car after about 10 or 15 laps,” McMurray said. “Our car was really fast. I feel good about it–if they can get this car fixed.”
KEEP ON TRUCKIN’?
Camping World president and CEO Marcus Lemonis, whose title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series runs through 2015, says he expects to make a decision on whether to extend his commitment by the end of this year.
In part, the decision depends on the participation of an as-yet-unnamed company featured on “The Profit,” the CNBC show on which Lemonis serves as both venture capitalist and mentor in turning around small businesses that seek his help.
“Our deal goes through 2015–I think it was a six- or seven-year deal (actually seven),” Lemonis said Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway during a press conference to promote the TV show. “But we are in talks, and one of the connections–it’s kind of ironic–but one of the tipping points (is) whether Camping World will extend that deal or not…
“In one of the episodes, there is an integration of NASCAR into one of the shows that you’ll see. And having one of these particular companies be part of our extension will be kind of the tipping point of whether we extend or not.”
Lemonis also wants to reserve judgment until he sees whether the transition of SPEED to Fox Sports 1, a broader-based sports network, changes the level of visibility of the Camping World Truck Series.
“I think the France family and Steve Phelps and all the folks (NASCAR president) Mike Helton–have done a fantastic job of taking Camping World to the next level,” Lemonis said. “When it comes to the Truck Series, I think the bigger question that I have right now is ‘What is the new SPEED/FoxSports network going to look like?’
“Is it going to change the viewership? Are the ratings going to change? Is it going to be shuffled around? Because today on SPEED, the Camping World Truck Series is THE program (the Saturday night Truck race at Iowa). I want to just be sure that I’m not going to get shuffled to the bottom of the pack.”
The July 24 Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, will mark the return of something that hasn’t appeared in any of NASCAR’s top touring series since the 1990s–the bias ply tire.
Because the race, billed as the “Inaugural Mudsummer Classic,” is the first on dirt since 1970 for one of NASCAR’s top three series, Goodyear had to provide a unique tire for the event. According to Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of race tire sales, the tire maker used a dirt modified tire it already produces as the basis for its Eldora tire.
Bias ply tires are more compliant and better suited to dirt because they are better able to envelope the irregularities of a dirt surface. Unlike the slicks used on pavement, the Eldora tire also features a tread pattern.
For the Truck Series, Goodyear widened the tire from 10 to 11 inches to provide a larger contact patch with the racing surface and more grip. Tony Stewart, Austin Dillon and brother Ty Dillon tested a 10-inch tire last October at Eldora.
“Basically, we started with a tire we had in the line, a dirt modified tire, because it was about the right size for the trucks,” Stucker said. “So that was the starting point. That’s what we tested last October when we first went there with the Dillons and Tony. It ran real well. We were very comfortable with the compound, with the performance that we saw.
“The one thing we came out of thinking was that we could probably give these guys more tire, a little more tread width.
After Goodyear produced the 11-inch version, Ty Dillon did a confirmation test of the tire at 311 Speedway in Pine Hall, N.C.
Goodyear and NASCAR began a phase-out of bias ply tires from the top touring divisions in 1989, in favor of radials. Though bias ply tires continued in use on short tracks for several years, the transition was complete by the mid-1990s.