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Mission Accomplished For New Tires At Kansas

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 3 2013

The Goodyear tires are getting a lot of attention at Kansas Speeway this weekend. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – One of the most talked about stories leading into Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway centers on a radically new Goodyear tire that is being put on the cars for the Hollywood Casino 400.

On Thursday afternoon, after about a three-hour open test with the tires, NASCAR offiicals, Goodyear officials and drivers said they all hope that nobody is talking about the tires when the race ends late Sunday afternoon.

In fact, that’s the goal, they said.

From the sound of it, mission accomplished.

“For me again,” points leader Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing said when asked if he felt a difference between the old an new tires, said, “I don’t. It’s hard to say unless you can run the other tire kind of back-to-back on the same weekend, so I did the second part of the Atlanta tire test with that dual zone tire, but that’s a totally different kind of race track and all that. When we put it on and everything was fine and I couldn’t – if you would have told me it was – I knew it was a different tire, but if you were going to tell me it was something new, that dual zone thing and all that, I wouldn’t have really known the difference.”

Driver Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing tried to describe the effect of the new tire after the test session.

“I think the tire is good. I’ll tell you what happened, at the beginning of the day the tire had a ton more grip, I thought, and as it rubbered up the track got a little slicker and my car was a little bit loose into three, so I’d kind of back it down in there and you could actually drive it. It’s not knife-edge, hard-to-drive. I believe you’ll see two and three-lane racing. It appears that way, so I think it’s good. I can’t tell how much fall-off there is because I only made about a five or six-lap run.”

The test, which was cut short by an hour by rain, featured teams using the multi-zone tire that debuted at Atlanta last month. The tire, which features two different rubber compounds on the same tire, is being put on the right sides of the cars at Kansas.

“I really give Goodyear a lot of credit for bringing this tire here and trying to give us something to lean on on these smooth race tracks,” said Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet. “To put some softer compound in there to give the car a little more forgiveness and grip, I love it. It worked really well in Atlanta. I really liked it there.”

The tire is being used this weekend in hopes of improving the racing at the 1.5-mile Kansas oval which was reconfigured and repaved after the first Cup weekend last year.

The new pavement has not had time to weather so the grip levels in the fall race last year and the spring race this year were very high.

Goodyear designed the previous tires used at Kansas to be hard and wear well to keep the racing safe. The harder tires, however, were low on grip, Goodyear director of race tire sales Greg Stucker explained as he sat in the Goodyear hauler at Kansas.

“Our hope is,” Stucker said, “the guys will get added grip. That’s the goal.”

He also said teams had been telling him Thursday that the new tire “behaves like a traditional tire and that’s our goal.”

When asked what he saw vis a vis the tires in the test session late Thursday, John Darby, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series director, said, “I didn’t see anything, which is good news.”

Speaking of business as usual: Jimmie Johnson soared to the top of the speed charts late in test session. His best lap was at 182.648 mph.

Johnson won last week’s race at Dover and sits second in points.

Edwards was second fastest at 182.531 mph.

Rounding out the top five were Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard.

Doing double duty at Kansas is the new Air Titan track dryer.

Designed to dry tracks more rapidly than the old jet dryers, the Air Titan was put to work at Kansas at mid-day Thursday as a heavy rain storm pounded the surface.

But the machine is also seeing track-preparation duty at Kansas.

Darby explained that it has been found that the Air Titan does a good job of blowing solid debris out of the pores of track surfaces.

He said NASCAR may opt to blow the tracks off with the machine on a regular basis in the future.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 3 2013
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