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.”