The problems likely were the latest effect of NASCAR’s new aero rules, which are producing higher speeds that lead to extra stress on the tires - particularly on the bumpy asphalt on Fontana’s back straightaway, which already wears out tires aggressively. NASCAR also loosened rules on tire pressure.
“By no means is this a problem for Goodyear,” Kurt Busch said. “It’s just a thumbs-up for NASCAR for allowing teams to get aggressive in all areas.”
Those problems might frustrate pit crews, but they can also lead to phenomenal racing, as the sellout crowd on its feet for the finish could attest.
HAMLIN SIDELINED: Denny Hamlin never got a shot at the redemption he craved after last season’s final-lap crash with Joey Logano at Fontana left him with a broken vertebra.
About 30 minutes before Sunday’s race, Joe Gibbs Racing said Hamlin was headed to the hospital for tests on a sinus infection. He was expected to stay overnight in the Los Angeles area.
“It’s not just a headache. It’s a lot more serious than that. He was actually losing vision his eye,” crew chief Darian Grubb told MRN.com and NASCAR.com after the race.
SMOKE SIGNALS: Don’t count out Tony Stewart just yet. After a lousy start to the Sprint Cup season, Smoke has posted back-to-back top-five finishes, following up his fourth-place finish at Bristol by coming in fifth. The 2012 Fontana champion had a shot at another win late, and Kurt Busch particularly enjoyed racing his boss for position in the final two laps.
UNIFORM CAUTION? For the second straight week, NASCAR had a problem with the caution light on pit row - but this one was more hilarious than detrimental.
Several drivers complained during an early pit stop that the red light was on, indicating pit road was closed. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition, was told that the official in charge of displaying the flag got his uniform caught in a hole in a fence and couldn’t move, preventing him from flipping off the red light.