Opinions differ on new Goodyear tire for Kansas

Chase leader Matt Kenseth could be forgiven for a relatively
sour opinion of the tire that Goodyear brought to Kansas Speedway
this weekend.

It’s not that he dislikes the ”multi-zone tread” that made its
debut Sept. 1 at Atlanta. It’s just that the defending race winner
at Kansas would have been happier with the status quo.

”I would have rather left everything alone, for us, especially
after today,” Kenseth said after Thursday’s tire test. ”Today was
a struggle, and any time something is new and you struggle where
you’ve had success, you kind of wish you could go back.”

That’s not happening, though, so Kenseth’s crew will have to
figure things out in a hurry.

It’s rare that NASCAR changes tires between spring and fall
races on the same track, but vice president of competition Robin
Pemberton said it made sense at repaved Kansas Speedway.

The glassy smooth surface of the newly pave track resulted in
trouble with grip during the spring race, leaving Goodyear trying
to come up with a solution. Four teams tried out the multi-zone
tread earlier this summer, and the rest of the field got its chance
to test Thursday.

”I thought the track had good grip,” said Jeff Gordon, who’s
tied with Kevin Harvick for fourth in the Chase. ”It lost a little
bit probably due to track temp toward the end of the day. It would
help to lay some rubber down but I’m not so sure this tire is going
to do that.”

Goodyear has used multi-zone treads on passenger cars for years,
but only recently brought the technology to NASCAR. The idea is to
meld two different compounds onto a single tire, one of them
offering better traction and the other better endurance.

So in the case of the tires the Sprint Cup will be running this
weekend, the outer portion of the tire features a more tractive
tread for better grip and handling. The inside shoulder offers a
firmer compound that helps manage wear for better durability.

”Typically we don’t have a midseason code changes on tires
between the spring and fall, but this is a unique set of
circumstances with the repave,” Pemberton said. ”Goodyear has
gone above and beyond to develop tires and bring the best stuff
they can to the racetrack. But it’s a test we didn’t have planned
on the books to do.”

Jimmie Johnson was the fastest of 38 drivers who tested the new
tires during a 3-hour session that was delayed by rain. Johnson,
who is second in the Chase, turned a fast lap of 182.648 mph near
the end of the test. He was followed by Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch
on the speed chart.

Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said that the best news
out of the tire test was that there was very little news. Nobody
had much trouble with grip and early opinions were positive.

”One of the exciting parts about having it here at Kansas is
because this is a recently paved track, it’s very smooth,” Darby
said. ”We ran the zone tread at Atlanta without any technical
issues or failures and had a good race, but that’s on a very
aggressive, coarse track surface, one that is known to chew up
tires. We had that example, and this is the other end of the
spectrum.”

Edwards and Gordon both endorsed the tire, even if Kenseth
preferred it had stayed the same.

”At the beginning of the day, the tire had a ton more grip, and
as it rubbered up it got a lot more slick,” Edwards said. ”But
you could actually drive it. It’s not a knife-edge, hard to drive.
So I believe you’ll see two- and three-wide racing this
weekend.”

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