INDIANAPOLIS - One of NASCAR's crown jewel events may be tarnished this year.
Persistent tire issues have plagued Sprint Cup drviers and teams throughout the weekend leading up to Sunday's 15th running of the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Saturday's final practice session saw some drivers wearing their tires down to the core after only ten laps leaving NASCAR and Goodyear officials scrambling to find a solution just hours before what is considered the second biggest race of the year.
NASCAR plans to throw a competition caution at lap 10 to check on any excessive wear problems with additional yellows slated to fly if issues continue.
"This is not anything we don't go through leading up to this race previously. We will evaluate after the first competition caution and make a call on further cautions," said NASCAR competition director Robin Pemberton.
"The teams will have the opportunity to have about 10 sets (of Indy tires) when all is said. We're going to monitor the wear and the laps we can run, and early on we'll be able to make a call on how far we'll be able to go on Indy tires."
Goodyear has shipped in tires previously developed for Pocono, a track similar in nature to Indianapolis. Should the current Indy tire continue to show wear problems, teams may shift to the Pocono rubber.
All of this has cast a giant shadow over this race and begs several questions. Why didn't Goodyear better prepare for the race? Why didn't NASCAR allow teams to test at Indianapolis in anticipation of one of the most prestigious races on the calendar.
Unfortunately for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, tire problems aren't a new concept. The Formula One United States Grand Prix was marred by a boycott a few years ago when only six cars went to the starting grid with the rest of the field boycotting because of dangerous tire wear fears.
We're not in danger of a short field starting Sunday but with competition yellows on the horizon and constant tire problems nearly a guarantee, I wouldn't expect much of a race either.
That's a major shame.