Tire switch may keep speeds under 200 mph

MOTOR SPORTS: After Biffle tops 204 mph in practice, change is made for today’s race

McClatchy news servicesJune 17, 2012 

Greg Biffle posted the fastest speed in an extra Sprint Cup practice session Saturday night in Brooklyn, Mich. — and it was quite a bit slower than his run the previous day.

The Cup cars finally slowed down when NASCAR held the extra practice because of a tire switch for today’s race. Biffle’s speed was 195.647 mph — the Vancouver, Wash., native had topped out at more than 204 on Friday on the newly repaved surface at Michigan International Speedway.

“The tires are really hard, you can tell,” Biffle said. “It is giving up a lot of grip. It is kind of funny, you can hear the tires squealing when you first go out, before it builds temperature, you can feel it sliding on the racetrack. It slows the cars down and as it builds heat it actually starts to gain some of that grip back.”

The tire switch was announced Friday, but it wasn’t in effect for qualifying Saturday, when 19 drivers surpassed the 200 mph mark.

Marcos Ambrose took the pole by posting a speed of 203.241 mph, the first time since 1987 the 200 mph mark was broken during Sprint Cup qualifying. Ambrose had the 11th-fastest pole-winning speed in series history.

“It’s going to sound great at the bar when you have had about six too many,” Ambrose cracked. “It is good bragging rights, I will give it that.”

Forty drivers broke Ryan Newman’s track qualifying record of 194.232 mph, set in 2005.

Kevin Harvick was second in qualifying. Biffle was third, and Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne was fourth.

Goodyear changed its tire recommendation Friday night, saying the high speeds caused increased left-side tire temperatures.

After qualifying was completed using the same tires that were used in earlier practices, teams scrambled to prepare for today’s 400-mile race on different tires.

“The tire is very different. It hasn’t got much grip,” Ambrose said after the extra practice session.

“It kind of threw us for a loop — the engine guys mostly,” Biffle said. “They have (a) set amount of miles we can put on the engines and we are a little over this weekend. We are on the throttle so much around here that we are a little concerned with the engine package anyway. This is a little added blood pressure for them all day tomorrow.”

PIT STOPS

Joey Logano followed up his Sprint Cup victory at Pocono last weekend with a win on the Nationwide Series at Michigan International Speedway. Logano held off James Buescher for his fifth Nationwide win of the year and 14th of his career. … Ryan Hunter-Reay found his way back to victory lane at the Milwaukee Mile, holding off Tony Kanaan in West Allis, Wis., for his sixth career victory and first this season. … Audi was in position to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the 11th time, with its cars in the top three spots at the race in France. … Antron Brown retained the No. 1 position in Top Fuel qualifying at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn. Bob Tasca (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) also kept the top spots in their classes.

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