Greg Stucker

Cup championship crew chiefs worried about tire allotment in Miami

Leave a comment

A 2015 Cup championship trophy sits in crew chief Adam Stevens’ office so he can see it every day.

“I kind of like to be reminded every time I come to work what we’re racing for and what the hard work we put in day in and day out and night in and night out and through all the grind of the season what it’s all for,’’ Stevens said.

He seeks another championship trophy with his driver, Kyle Busch, among the four racing for a title in Sunday’s season finale in Miami (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

The challenge for Busch and Stevens will be more than Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski for the championship. Stevens and other crew chiefs are concerned about the tire limits this weekend.

Cup teams will be allowed nine sets for the race plus the set they use in qualifying. Last year, teams had 12 sets available plus they could also use a set from practice.

Fewer sets of tires could mean more difficult decisions for crew chiefs, especially if there are a number of cautions.

“I think it changes a lot,’’ said Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick.

Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

Childers noted that in 2014 when he and Harvick won the title, they used 11 sets of tires in the 400-mile race.

“I don’t feel like there’s enough tires,’’ Childers said of the allotment for Sunday’s race. “The last thing you want to do is run out of tires with 40 laps to go and not be able to do anything or race for a championship at the end. I’ve been trying to push a little bit, see if we can’t get an extra set for the race.’’

Teams were allowed fewer tires in half of the playoff races this season compared to last year. NASCAR cut allotments for some races after examining tire usage by teams with Goodyear. NASCAR sought to have the number of sets available closer to what had been used in previous races.

The concern among crew chiefs is that tires could be critical because how much they wear at Homestead-Miami  Speedway. Greg Stucker, Goodyear director of racing, notes that the track has become one of the highest wear tracks on the circuit.

That’s just one of many concerns crew chiefs have entering the weekend. Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Brad Keselowski, has additional worries. His team has struggled to find speed in the playoffs. Keselowski has finished ahead of Truex twice in the first nine playoff races but neither were at 1.5-mile speedways, the length of Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Keselowski has been slower than Truex and Harvick in green flag speed and on restarts in all four of the playoff races on 1.5-mile tracks this season.

“We’ve just got to go down there and make speed,’’ Wolfe said. “That’s kind of as simple as it is. I feel good about what we’re bringing down there. I don’t know if it’ll be enough, but I’m proud of the effort that we’ve put in.’’

Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn arrive as what some will view as the favorite with seven victories this season, including six on 1.5-mile speedways. Pearn is fine with that role. It’s much better than in 2015, when the team entered the season finale as an underdog.

“I think at that point we were just thrilled to have made it, and I think we didn’t really know what to do,’’ he said. “It was like a dog chasing the car, we finally caught the car and we didn’t know what to do with it. 

“This past year and the year before we really tried to take more time and get ourselves prepared for Homestead itself. So I think, obviously, we won’t see that until this weekend, but it’s been in our mind for a long time, and really trying to get ourselves prepared for this race and probably have put more emphasis on it than we would have if we hadn’t have gone through what we did in 2015.’’

Softer tires will be used in All-Star Race; What about 2018?

2 Comments

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR’s use of an optional, softer tire for next month’s All-Star Race has competitors excited and wondering when Goodyear might bring those tires to other tracks.

Not since NASCAR had two tire manufacturers more than 20 years ago have competitors had such choices. That will change with the All-Star Race with two different sets of Goodyear tires. Competitors will be allowed to use one set of optional, softer tires in the four-segment, 70-lap race. They’ll have the regular tires as their other option.

If things go well, that could lead to the softer tires also being brought to other tracks in the future.

“This is something we’ll look at for 2018, when you look at what are levers we can pull from a competitive standpoint, this is one of those,’’ said Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president and chief development officer. “We’re positive about what can happen here. Something to look at for sure.’’

Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of race tire sales, told NBC Sports on Tuesday that the company has not had talks with NASCAR about any other race with softer tires beyond the All-Star event.

Stucker did say that Goodyear has come to an agreement “in principle” with NASCAR to remain the series’ sole tire supplier. Goodyear’s contract expires after this season. Stucker told NBC Sports that “we’re just putting all the final touches on (the new contract). I think we’re in good shape.’’

Drivers are encouraged by having a softer tire at the All-Star Race and what it could mean.

“This is the perfect time to try a softer tire,’’ Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch said of the non-points race. “This could be a direction for the future of the sport. I like it. Let’s see how it goes.’’

Kyle Larson also is excited to have a softer tire option.

“If this whole thing goes good, maybe we can see it in other races down the road or all races,’’ he said. “You go to most of your local short tracks … dirt tracks you have two or three different compounds you can chose from, different staggers to make your car work better. Adding that little bit of tire game and strategy is exciting for the race teams.’’

Stucker said much has to be determined about how the softer tire works at Charlotte Motor Speedway before using it elsewhere.

Stucker said that the softer tire used is a combination of construction and compound not used together before.

“We went back at our data, our compound lineup and looked at some of the testing we’ve done … and tried to figure out if we’re looking to be three- to five-tenths (of a second quicker initially) and that was the bogey, what would be the right combination,’’ Stucker said. “That’s how it came about. It’s not necessarily a combination we race anywhere else, but it’s combinations that we evaluated and we have history on and we merged compound and construction to come up with that combination.’’

The key question with the softer tire is when teams will use it in the All-Star Race, which features three segments of 20 laps and a final 10-lap segment for $1 million.

Will teams use the tires early to ensure they’re among the 10 cars advancing to the final shootout or will they save it for the final 10 laps.

As for how long the softer tire will remain faster than the other tire option, teams will have for the All-Star Race, Stucker said: “We came up with a combination with the full knowledge that someone may put it on for one of those 20-lap segments and knowing that if they make that choice they want it on for 20 laps.

“They can’t afford to put it on at the beginning of a 20-lap segment and then have to change. It’s going to be really hard to say how much falloff there will be. That’s going to depend on the conditions, how warm is it going to be, what is the ambient (temperature), how much sun is the track seeing over the course of the afternoon … car set up, all those different things. Our intent was for it to be able to survive a 20-lap run.’’

 and on Facebook

Goodyear continues examination of Kyle Busch’s Daytona 500 tires

Getty Images
5 Comments

Goodyear officials have sent the tires that were on Kyle Busch‘s car when it wrecked in Sunday’s Daytona 500 for further testing. Busch lost control, spun and collected several other cars, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was leading the race at the time.

On Wednesday morning’s “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Goodyear director of racing Greg Stucker said Busch’s tires arrived Tuesday at company headquarters in Akron, Ohio.

“Our engineers went over them very thoroughly, just to make sure we didn’t miss anything at the racetrack,” Stucker said. “We feel we didn’t.

“We sent them down to our research facility, where we have forensic specialists if you will, that can really do a deep dive into all the different components, all the different parts of the tire and look at them in a lot more detail than you can visually with electron microscopes and a lot of other different tools they have at their exposure.

“It’s very impressive some of the detail they can go into and we’ll find out as much as we can. That takes a little bit of time to do, but that’s in the works.”

Goodyear engineers also looked at video of Busch’s accident for any other clues.

“We want to see if we can see anything,” Stucker said. “We can look at the attitude of the car, did we see anything come out from under the car that might have indicated he ran over anything or any contact.

“We didn’t see anything there again. The other thing is the spin itself. We look at the way the skid marks come from the tires themselves. A tire that’s deflated makes a different skid mark than a tire that is inflated.”

Goodyear officials paid extra attention to the right rear tire on Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, Stucker said.

“It appears as though the right rear tire was still inflated when Kyle spun, and that’s pretty consistent with the way the tire looked itself,” Stucker said. “The tire was flat-spotted, and normally it won’t flat spot through a tire. It’ll just wear through it.

“So that’s pretty consistent. We’ve also stayed in constant communication with the team, if they’ve discovered anything when they got the car back and trying to look through things. We want to make sure they’re very aware of what our analysis is.

“As soon as we know something, then obviously we’ll make sure the team is very well aware of what the findings were.”

Stucker said Goodyear produced between 3,500 and 4,000 tires that it brought to Daytona for all three major NASCAR series teams: Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Trucks.

Busch’s tire issue was one of only a few during Speedweeks, Stucker said.

“We’re very comfortable with overall how Speedweeks went, it kicked the season off and now we’re off to Atlanta this week,” Stucker said.

Goodyear will return to Daytona in April for a tire test. Goodyear will look at a softer tire, which Daytona 500 race winner Kurt Busch has suggested.

“Daytona was one of those we felt like that it’s starting to lose a little bit of its grip from its repave several years ago,” Stucker said. “So we had on our docket to go back there in April and do some testing.

“In conversation with the garage area, the competition group of the teams and with NASCAR, they’d also look at some different aero packages and configurations. We’re going to do that in April, taking some tires back that give a slight increase in grip and is it possible to marry them with some of the aero changes that NASCAR and teams are looking at and see if we can come up with a little bit different package.”

 

Goodyear has tire tests scheduled April 4-5 at Michigan and April 25-26 at Indianapolis.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Goodyear making tire change for Kentucky race

Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR Sprint Cup teams will have a different tire next week at Kentucky Speedway after Goodyear saw blistering at a recent test there with the tire it intended to use.

Fourteen teams tested June 13-14 at Kentucky — the first time any teams had been on the repaved track.

Greg Stucker, director of race tire sales for Goodyear, said after seeing some blistering during the second day of the test “we needed to react.’’

The new tire features the hardest compound in Goodyear’s lineup. This compound has been used at Talladega, Michigan and Las Vegas. The tire’s construction remains the same to what was run at the test.

Another change is that teams will receive all their tires for the weekend at the same time. Typically, teams get their practice and qualifying tires separately from their race tires.

At Kentucky, teams will be allowed six sets of tires for practice and qualifying and 10 sets for the race. Teams can carryover a set from practice to the race.

By having all the tires earlier in the weekend, teams can scuff those during practice. Goodyear suggests that teams run four or five laps to properly scuff the tires for the race.

“It just helps to combat the heat a little bit that you would see on a brand new tire,’’ Stucker said of the scuffing.

Teams will have plenty of time to do so. With the repave, NASCAR already granted teams extra practice. Teams will have 4 hours, 10 minutes of track time spread over three practices before qualifying next week.

The Kentucky race is the second race with the proposed 2017 aero changes. The changes were first run earlier this month at Michigan. The rules feature:

— The spoiler shortened from 3.5 inches to 2.5 inches

— Resizing the deck fin to match the spoiler

— Reducing the splitter 2 inches

— A neutral rear toe/skew setting

Recent Goodyear tire tests will lead to changes for Richmond, Kentucky races

2 Comments

The recent Goodyear tire tests at Richmond International Raceway and Kentucky Speedway have provided data that will lead to changes in the tire compounds for upcoming races at those tracks.

In the Richmond test on April 7, drivers that took part were A.J. Allmendinger, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart.

Goodyear announced Friday that it will use the same left-side tire that was used in last fall’s final race prior to the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

However, the April 7 test results will prompt Goodyear to bring new multi-zone tread right-side tires for next Saturday night’s race at the .750-mile track.

“Even though we were very happy with the way the 2014 tire laid rubber down on the racetrack and with the wear characteristics of the package, input from teams was that a bit more grip was in order,” Goodyear director of racing Greg Stucker said in a media release. “From the results of the test, we feel the new tire combination will deliver that.”

The two-day test at Kentucky earlier this week (April 13-14) featured Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Brett Moffitt and Ryan Newman.

As a result of the data collected, the right-side tires in the July 11 race will be a new tire that “incorporated a different mold shape and construction from what we raced there in the past,” Stucker said.

As for left-side tires at the 1.5-mile Kentucky track, Stucker said: “With the lower downforce of the 2015 rules package, we felt a left-side compound adjustment to increase grip was justified. Both those goals were met, and all drivers involved in the test felt like the new combination was a nice improvement over the package raced in 2014 and prior.”

There is still one more test to come this month, April 27-28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Teams scheduled to take part are BK Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Petty Motorsports.

“The ground track surface at Indy makes it very sensitive to tire set-up,” said Stucker.  “The focus of the Indy test will be to make sure we have the correct tire combination to match the new characteristics of the low downforce, low horsepower 2015 rules package.”

Stucker added that, “to date, we’re happy with the way the 2015 season has gone. We feel like those adjustments we have made to tire recommendations from 2014 have been nice improvements, adding back some of the grip in a mechanical fashion to compensate for some of the grip lost through the aerodynamic downforce reduction. That will continue to be our focus in 2015 testing.”

Additional upcoming tests will be at Iowa Speedway on May 5 (Xfinity Series only), Dover International Speedway on May 11-12 and Darlington Raceway on June 9-10.

Follow @JerryBonkowski