Saturday, March 19, 2011
Goodyear's new tires fix issue
By David Newton
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Reaction to the new right-side tires Goodyear introduced to Sprint Cup teams Saturday was mixed, but everyone agreed the biggest concern that forced the change has been fixed.
"It lasts," said Mark Martin, who was fastest in the final practice. "There's not as much grip, and handling is not as good, but it will last. That's what we had to have."
Goodyear made the decision to change early Friday because the new, softer compound brought to the half-mile track was severely chording, to the point the tires were wearing out in 25 to 30 laps -- far less than the 135 laps needed for a full fuel run.
The right-side combination also was not rubbering up the track properly.
"The track obviously is taking on more rubber," Goodyear's Rick Heinrich said after practice. "The tire wear projects to a full fuel run."
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition, was happy with the new tires that produced speeds of about half a second slower.
"It's fine," he said. "It's a little bit different, but the important thing is we're in a position now to react faster than ever before."
Pemberton was referring to the 2008 debacle at Indianapolis, in which NASCAR had to call mandatory pit stops every nine laps of green-flag racing for teams to change tires.
Most agreed the racing at Bristol will not be affected by the change.
"Sometimes going slower and having less grip makes for better racing," Matt Kenseth said. "I don't think it will affect the racing as long as everybody has the same tires."
Kenseth was concerned before practice because the date codes on the tires he used in practice were from January 2010.
He said it was a "joke" that teams had to pay for tires that old.
"I don't think you should have to pay for a race tire that is probably on the borderline of dry rot," Kenseth said. "When you get tires that old, and it's harder to start with, you're not going to have much grip. Everybody is hopefully in the same box."
Heinrich said each team will have one set of tires made in February 2010 and eight sets made in September 2010.
Pole-sitter Carl Edwards, who was fastest in practice Friday, was 33rd-fastest Saturday. But Edwards said his team never put the faster tires on, noting the No. 99 Ford was faster than most on the new tires.
Most teams didn't practice with the new tires until late in Saturday's second practice.
"The tire is a lot slower and it's gonna be a little more difficult to drive," Edwards said. "We're still working on trying to get the car set up best for it, but it's a challenge for everybody. We're gonna do everything we can. We had one set of tires to practice on and one set of tires to figure things out, so I just hope we'll be able to get it right with the amount of practice we got."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.