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New tire, new surface vex drivers
KANSAS CITY, KAN.
Tire versus new track surface — the issue is open for debate.
Goodyear introduced its new multi-zone tread right-side tire for Kansas Speedway, but the results have been mixed.
Although the tire was successful at the more seasoned Atlanta Motor Speedway, it caused fits for many teams and drivers at Kansas this weekend — particularly after temperatures cooled down by 30 degrees on Saturday following a half-day of testing Thursday and qualifying and practice on Friday.
The tire features two distinct tread compounds — the original tread or "traction zone" on the outside nine inches, with a more heat-resistant compound for the inside three inches, or what is referred to the "endurance zone."
“Everbody is uneasy,” one crew chief said, speaking under anonymity. “It’s too cold, the track isn’t taking any rubber and the inside of the tire has less rubber to take heat out of the tire. The tire temperatures show hot, but it’s cooler on the inside edge.”
Several teams had cords exposed on the right-side tires after Happy Hour, including the Nos. 9, 22, 29 and 39. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch both spun on cold tires before they completed laps on first runs on Saturday. Kenseth was fourth on speed chart in Happy Hour (183.874 mph), but the defending race winner is entering Sunday’s event “cautiously optimistic.”
But he doesn’t believe he has the “speed to win.”
“I think it’s going to be similar to last year,” said Kenseth, who is leading the point standings. “We have less grip than what we had in the spring and probably last year. So, it’s not very forgiving. That’s all right. Everyone likes something different.
“I don’t want to be one of them that wrecks, but I think it’s going to be hard to get that balance — to be fast without stepping over the edge and losing control. The tire has no forgiveness at all. As soon as the car steps out, it’s gone. It spins out. You can’t really catch it. It should be fun to watch.”
Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski said the action resembled “a damn minefield out there” to his crew over the radio during Cup practice. While he picked up the pace from 22nd-fastest on the chart in second practice to third in Happy Hour, Keselowski said “the compatibility between the car, track and tires seems to be a little off this weekend.”
“That’s why you’re seeing some of the best drivers in the world spin out on their own,” said Keselowski, who will roll off fourth on Sunday. “It’s not a coincidence. We had quite a few issues, so I don’t know quite what to expect tomorrow [Sunday].”
Although Busch had a solid fourth-place finish in the Nationwide Series race, after crashing out of the last two Cup races at Kansas Speedway — and spinning before completing his first laps of practice Saturday — the driver of the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota humbly acknowledged, “I need a lot of help.”
But unlike most of the drivers, Busch is blaming the track — not the tires.
“Our car is not very good,” said Busch who is third in points but was 25th-fastest in Happy Hour.
“I’m not very good here. I don’t know why I can be in the Nationwide (Series) — we had a great car today. It was comfortable and really smooth to drive, but my Cup car has never had that feeling here at Kansas.
“It’s a repave. It’s not the tire’s fault. We keep telling all these race tracks not to repave and they don’t listen to us. It’s frustrating because we know what kind of race this place put on before they repaved it. I mean, it was a great racetrack. We went from the bottom all the way to the wall and you could run it anywhere you wanted to. And they repaved it and caused single-lane race — and it sucks.”