Dale Earnhardt Jr. wasn't too pleased with how his car ran on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway – and suggested it might be time for Goodyear to try a different tire combination on the newly repaved track.
While he acknowledged the No. 88 car didn't have enough speed throughout the weekend ("We weren't very good," he said), Earnhardt Jr. suggested an inconsistent tire contributed to the team's troubles.
"The track has aged a little bit, and it's going to age a lot out here in this desert," he said after finishing 14th. "So it's time to soften the tire up and do something different with this tire. It's greasy; it don't get into the track. It just lays grease like a film on top of the track, and it's just real slick."
The Hendrick Motorsports driver pointed to the difference between Friday's practice times and Saturday's qualifying session as evidence the tire needed a change.
When teams put their cars into qualifying trim, Earnhardt Jr. said, the times dropped off from practice instead of doing the opposite.
"That should tell you your tire is not quite right for the track," he said.
While he said the tire is "OK" and "alright," Earnhardt Jr. said he'd like to see Goodyear return to Phoenix for a full tire test – even though it's expensive.
The tires used Sunday were the same ones brought to last November's Phoenix race, which was the first race run on the repaved and reconfigured 1-mile oval.
Goodyear held its initial Phoenix tire test with Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart in late August to find the right tire, then confirmed its results during NASCAR's open test in early October.
The left-side tires are the same ones Goodyear used last season at Indianapolis, but Earnhardt Jr. said the type of tire used at Richmond might be a better fit for Phoenix.
Despite his tire concerns, Earnhardt Jr. was mostly pleased to leave Phoenix with a 14th-place finish in light of how he ran for most of the day.
"There was one damn run in the middle of that race (after) a green-flag stop where we were really happy, but for whatever reason, on restarts we weren't good," he said. "I don't know, man, I don't really know why.
"We got a decent finish out of today. The car wasn't good and we got decent points on what I would call one of our worst performances as a group in a long time."