It’s less than two weeks from the Allstate 400, which is one of the largest NASCAR Sprint Cup races of the year. The question on everyone’s mind is obviously the tire and if Goodyear corrected the problem that plagued last year’s race. Have they made a tire that won’t wear out in 10 laps? The answer is — yes. Goodyear was committed to solving that problem and did just that. They conducted several tests and spent an enormous amount of money to make sure this didn’t happen again. They now have a tire that will make it through a fuel run and also has grip.
Now that the testing is complete, there is a clear picture of what caused the same tread compound used on the old car to behave differently on the CoT. I spoke to Greg Stucker, director of race operations for Goodyear.
“Our data showed the new car runs at a higher yaw attitude than the old car,” Stucker explained. “It creates different wear debris, created a smaller particle size than what it had previously done on that abrasive surface. This (rubber dust) simply went airborne. It didn’t get driven into the racetrack, as is typically what happens.”
Consequently, the track didn’t hold the rubber and form a groove. It became a “self cleaning” sanding block and this rubber debris covered the wall, the grandstands and the spectators.
Since the 2008 Allstate 400, Goodyear has worked very hard to understand this problem and correct it. There have been seven tests at the Speedway and countless hours spent in their test facilities and in the engineering department. “We ground our test track using the same equipment, to the same surface, and by the same people that ground the Speedway. We did this for compound test evaluation,” Stucker said.
“One of the options was to go hard; evaluate a compound that was so hard that no matter how abrasive the surface was, you couldn’t wear it out. The grip wasn’t good. We don’t want to take that approach. We want something that that will provide a good, raceable set up,” Stucker said.
The easy way out of this problem would be to build a tire with a “rock hard” compound and not worry about wear. Goodyear chose to do the right thing by building a tire with adequate grip so there is a “chance” of a good race. I say that because the recipe for a good race depends on many ingredients. It isn’t an automatic. It takes more than just a tire.
With the new tire development, based on many test miles, teams will definitely be able to make a full fuel run. That could be anywhere from 35 to 45 laps, depending on yellows, etc. “Our goal was to make sure we made a fuel stop very safely and we certainly have accomplished that,” Stucker said. “We were testing at lap speeds faster than we will see in the race.”
This new tire will drop off some during a run, but the balance seems to stay consistent. That’s very important. There will be factors like chassis set up and race conditions that will vary in terms of lap times and how they drop off. “Kasey Kahne saw about a nine tenths of a second drop after 15 laps. We’re seeing about one second over 15 to 20 laps,” Stucker said.
This drop gives the teams something they can dial to. The good teams will work with this and make their car better for the long run and will experience less drop off over a fuel run. Other teams will be fast on stickers and see the tire fade quicker. This scenario usually makes for a good race.
The bottom line is nobody was at fault for the tire issue that took place last year. Yes, it’s easy to point fingers at Goodyear, NASCAR or Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but this was a situation that was nearly impossible to predict. Believe me, if it was obvious, there were several very talented race team engineers that were sleeping during the testing in 2008.
My prediction: with this new tire and the double-file restarts, the 2009 Allstate 400 will be a great race.