CONCORD, N.C. – There’s only been a two-race sample size for the new lower-downforce rules package in Sprint Cup this season, yet there have been encouraging signs beyond Sunday afternoons.
Jamie McMurray and three other drivers discovered some Tuesday and Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where a Goodyear test provided more optimism about the softer tire construction that is believed to be a key to ensuring more action this season.
“I’m somewhat surprised they’ve come as far as they have as fast as they have,” Jamie McMurray said about the Goodyear test. “I did some (tire testing) last year. When they said, ‘This should have more grip,’ it didn’t feel like that in the car. This whole test, whatever they told you it was going to do, is what it has done.
“You have to creep up on it. No one wants to blow tires. But what they have seems to be good grip initially and then fall off. So we’re pretty pleased with it.”
Drivers have lobbied for tires that feature initially high grip (producing faster speeds) but that wear evenly and quickly, producing disparity in lap times between those on fresher and worn rubber.
McMurray said it was easier to pass the past two weeks at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He said Vegas would have been better if not for cool temperatures that precluded the groove from widening.
“The new package is definitely better behind someone,” McMurray said. “It’s not as big a disturbance in the air. Last year and the year before, you struggled when you caught someone. I didn’t think there was near as big of a balance shift (this season) when you were catching someone.
“I hope as it gets hotter, and there’s more tire falloff, that will get better. Goodyear has been aggressive with bringing softer tires but still getting good wear.”
Martin Truex Jr. also has been pleased by the progress.
“The tire is so important,” Truex said. “They’ve had a real challenge, especially at tracks like Vegas, to get that tire falloff at a track where the speeds are super fast. It’s really hard at tracks like Vegas and Charlotte and on newer asphalt.
“They’ve done a really great job with it. They’ve got a good group of people that take all our comments and feedback. The hard part is to filter through all the comments and come up with the right solution. They’ve done a great job. To see the falloff at Atlanta and have only a few tire wear issues, the further down this road, the better we get. Hopefully, we’ll keep taking the downforce off the cars and making (the tires) softer.”