Tires were an issue for some drivers during the 60th Annual Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway last evening. The drivers who did experience tire issues lost a couple of laps under green and then had trouble getting the lap back.
Most notable of the evening were Clint Bowyer driver of the #15 AAA Insurance Toyota, Cole Whitt driver of the #26 Scorpyd Toyota, Reed Sorenson driver of the #36 Chevrolet and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. driver of the #17 Nationwide Ford, all seen the front right tire go down that resulted in all three cars catching on fire.
Sorenson was the first car to catch fire but Bowyer was the first driver to exit the race after his tire and subsequently the #15 caught on fire on Lap 160, leaving the pits still on fire resulting in the paint had burning off and the right side melted the plastic on the car. Ending his night on Lap 166
But Bowyer’s problems started shortly after the green flag wove, Bowyer started in the third position behind Kyle Larson, who won the pole after qualifying was rained out. Larson got a jump on second place driver Brad Keselowski , when the #42 Axe Peace Chevrolet, came down in front of Bowyer going into Turn 1 on the first lap of the race creating the first caution before Lap 1 was complete.
Bowyer said he got ‘payback’ for spinning Larson by having tire problems throughout the night, likely due to an aggressive camber issue. He failed to finish the race after his tire and then the car caught on fire on Lap 160
“First I want to say sorry to Kyle, I really hate that happened,” Bowyer said after retiring from the race. “I really like Kyle (Larson) and I’m a big fan of his. Him and the 2 car (Keselowski) kind of spun their tires and I just got such a big run on him when he moved up. Then I was like, ‘Okay, I guess I’m going to go to the lead,’ about that time he come down and I tried to get on the brakes and just got into him. I’m so glad he didn’t hit the wall. Last thing I wanted to do is ruin his day.”
A few drivers found their night had ended after their cars caught fire from the cords or rubber getting hung up on the brakes or in the ducts.
Sorenson, who completed 225 laps, said, “Seems like the rubber got to the oil lines and the brake lines and that was what was burning was the oil and the fuel, I got out of there as quick as I could and to try and not inhale all that smoke. It’s definitely not what you want to be inside of.”
Even with Kyle Busch finishing third he said it was the wrong tires and worse than the tire they had driven with at Richmond last year. Busch’s team made the decision to pit for tires with 14 laps to go, starting in 16th with the restart leaving 10 to go.
“It looked like they had 80 laps on their tires,” said Busch. “And I had stickers on, and I think they only had eight laps on their tires. Really crazy the way that ended up and just drove past everybody on the outside.”
“It’s just too hard and too hard of a compound for here,” Busch said. “We were all basically on ice here, it was just like having a hard tire out there. “
Next weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the Talladega Super Speedway, where anything can happen.