There are more takeaways to draw from Speedweeks 2017
Kyle Busch's criticism of Goodyear makes for an interesting subplot for Goodyear's NASCAR contract expires after 2017 and after years - decades really - of periodic tire issues and "aggressive setups" buck-passing by Goodyear (Update March 20 - numerous tire failures at Phoenix and to a lesser extent Atlanta and Vegas add to the issue), the question should be - should NASCAR have a different tire supplier after 2017?
I say emphatically Yes.
The blunt reality is Goodyear has had its run but has never been able to hang with competition - when it had to race Firestone in Indycars it was Firestone that won out in the end, and the only reason Goodyear won its two tire competitions with Hoosier despite having more incidence of tire failure than Hoosier was simple numbers, money (being a much bigger company) and attrition. A lot of NASCAR people are leery of the tire war periods of 1988-89 and 1994, but compared to the Goodyear monopoly period one struggles to make the case that the tire war periods were truly worse.
The most raceable tires Goodyear has fielded in NASCAR the last twenty-five years were the leftover tire-war tire used in 1995-96 and the latter-1999 tire designed to battle Hoosier in Winston West that was used starting in the August Yankee 400 and for several races the rest of that year. Outside of that, the tire Goodyear has fielded for Cup and also the Busch/Xfinity Series has not been that good, forgiving, or raceable. And through this period the raceability of the tire has almost always not been adequately addressed - fan Mike Babine notes Goodyear admitted in 2008-09 it didn't design the tire for the present-generation Winston Cup cars - and at this point NASCAR is in need of some new ideas that actually address raceability. People forget it was Hoosier Race Tire that brought to NASCAR some innovative ideas - races where Hoosier-shod cars ran 500 miles using fewer tires than Goodyear guys for one.
I do not have confidence Goodyear can handle it since they have such a poor record at it - only when it was challenged by Hoosier or it flat stumbled onto something did Goodyear improve raceability. In that 1995-96 period racing greats Chris Economaki and Dick Berggren noted the tires raced more like bias-plies.
The one caveat to put in is the Truck Series the last five seasons has seen a remarkable increase in passing and side-by-side racing and it seems clear the tire there is more forgiving and raceable.
There was also the unusual Brian France comment at the prerace drivers meeting addressing the growing problem of blocking during Speedweeks. That France actually addressed it was surprising enough; that he in essence said was NASCAR is not going to listen if drivers complain about blocking seems a change of pace for NASCAR - NASCAR basically saying the drivers have the onus of accountability here. That blocking is now a legitimate issue should not be denied; that adding yet more rules when NASCAR needs to start taking away some rules - regarding blocking, letting the cars push-draft more and letting them pass below the yellow line would certainly cut down on blocking - is foolish.
Atlanta now beckons and it will be NASCAR's 2,500th Winston Cup Grand National race. The track will finally be repaved after this race, something that should have happened many years ago. So it goes as NASCAR's inaugural Monster Energy season gets going.