Goodyear confident tires won't explode at Daytona Sunday
Despite some concerns about tire wear going into Sunday’s Daytona 500, Goodyear program manager Greg Stucker is confident that his company has brought a tire to Daytona that will hold up well in Sunday’s 200-lap race.
“I think we’re pretty happy with what we see,” Stucker said on Friday at the 2.5-mile track. “We still saw some evidence of some of the compound tearing and blistering that we’ve kind of grown accustomed to seeing with this car at Daytona, but certainly I think everybody’s working on it better than it was earlier in the week prior to the [Budweiser] Shootout and practice. And people just keeping getting it better and better and better. So we’ve got a couple practices to go before the 500, so overall I think we’re pretty happy.”
In the closing laps of Thursday’s second Gatorade Duel qualifying race alone, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Red Bull Racing’s Brian Vickers were all forced to make green flag pit stops because they thought they had a tire going down.
In an effort to help prevent some of the blistering that occurred in last year’s Daytona 500, Goodyear brought a different right-side tire for Speedweeks this time. The tire features a tougher rubber compound along with gauges that adjust in an effort to take some of the heat out and make the tire more durable and resistant to blistering.
“Certainly if we look at the number of the tires that have actually been blistered, if we look at the temperatures that our guys have taken on the cars, certainly, or our adjustments on the tire itself, [they] have helped a lot,” Stucker said. “We feel pretty good. I think overall if you hear some of the comments, I think the drivers are pretty comfortable with the package, and I think we’re pretty good.”
Hendrick Motorsports’ Jeff Gordon, who won Thursday’s first 60-lap Duel, says Goodyear’s right-side tires are prone to a fair amount of wear in a short amount of time, but he doesn’t anticipate it being too big of a problem on Sunday.
“From the very first green-flag run that we had [in the Duel], both right sides, especially the right front - I was a little bit nervous towards the end of that run,” Gordon said. “I could tell that the grip was going away. I could tell that my car was starting to get a lot tighter and that we probably were either blistering or had some excessive wear on the right-front tire. … The [crew] said, 'Yeah, [it’s] definitely more than we've seen in practice.'
“They didn't say that [to] indicate that it was a problem, [however]. We've been seeing some wear in practice and some blistering, and we saw a little bit more than that. But other than that, after that when I got in the lead, my tires looked great.”
As for whether preseason testing might have helped Goodyear with its tire selection for Daytona, Stucker doesn’t seem to think so. Unlike most seasons, there was no preseason testing at Daytona this year because of NASCAR’s testing ban at all its Cup, Nationwide Truck, East and West series tracks.
“It certainly would you give you a little bit earlier sense for where everybody is, but I don’t think it really would have changed anything,” Stucker said. “It might have given everybody a little bit of a head start on their setups in getting ready for the 500, but it really wouldn’t have changed what we did.”
The fact that there will be more rubber on the track before Sunday’s main event could help make blistering less of an issue than it has been so far this week, even though speeds will pick up as the race turns from day to night.
“The rubber always helps to get more rubber down and just takes away the wear a little bit ..., but then we do run into the evening hours, so I’m sure those speeds will pick back up,” Stucker said. “So early on [in the race] is probably a little bit better [for tire wear], but I think by that time, everything’s pretty well a wash.”
Gordon agrees that tire concerns should be less of a concern by Sunday – once teams have completed all their practices and the Truck and Nationwide series cars have left extra rubber on the track from their races on Friday and Saturday.
“Typically at Daytona, throughout the week, we see wear, and it typically gets better as we get to Sunday's race; more rubber gets laid down on the race track,” Gordon said. “Especially starting from the Truck race tonight, the Nationwide race tomorrow, Sunday we should be in good shape … We know that there's blistering, we know that there's wear ..., and I think a lot of us want Goodyear to build a tire we can race on. Don't build a tire that nobody can damage.
“It's their responsibility and our responsibility to make sure that whatever setup we put in that car is not only a fast setup but one that's going to manage the tires. It's part of racing, and everybody has to think that way, including us. … I like the tire, and I think that wear and blistering is going to get a little bit better by Sunday. " SceneDaily.com
[Editor's Note: Good to hear that Goodyear thinks they have a good tire for Sunday. With a history of exploding NASCAR race tires, and the fiasco at the Allstate 400 last year, Goodyear can't afford any more bad PR.]