From listening to driver interviews and watching practice, it seems as if Goodyear has solved whatever the tire problem was that ruined last year's Brickyard 400.
You remember that one, right? Fifty-two laps (out of 160) were run under caution as the tires ripped away like papier-mache.
Goodyear was roundly criticized but went to work right away. A recent tire test was graded a success from the drivers involved. And after Friday's first Allstate 400 practice session, drivers again were beaming as inspected tires showed no unusual wear.
"Our tires looked great and felt great," Jeff Gordon said. "As thrilled as I was with the test, I thought we would at least see some aggressive wear in this first (practice) run, but it's even better than I expected. It's a huge relief. Last year wasn't any fun for anybody. You just never knew how hard you could push or how far you could go. Now we can go back to racing like we've always done here."
Unfortunately, the tire debacle, paired with the slow economy, has cut into the expected crowd at the famed Brickyard. Speedway president Joie Chitwood estimated about 75,000 fewer fans will be in attendance Sunday.
Still, if 150,000 fans do show up, no one could consider that a poor crowd. No, it's not up to previous standards, but few tracks would be disappointed to get anywhere close to that number. With a good showing Sunday, an economic rebound will bring the fans back.