Goodyear executive responds to Brad Keselowski’s criticism of Michigan tire package

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A Goodyear Tire executive responded on Thursday to critical comments Brad Keselowski made earlier this week regarding the new tire package for this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

Keselowski, who was part of the April tire test that helped determine the tire setup for Cup and Xfinity teams, said on Twitter, “Our team (and several others) tested multiple tire compounds and recommended every one of them but this one. In no way do I wanna be associated with this decision.”

Involved in the April test with Keselowski were Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, and Martin Truex Jr.

Compared to what was run at Michigan last year, the new left-side tire features an updated construction that brings it into line with what is run at other speedways and a new compound to introduce more wear. The new right-side tire is a single tread compound tire (last year was a multi-zone tread tire) with a new compound that will introduce more wear and run cooler.

Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint” to clarify what package NASCAR will be using at the 2-mile track.

“Brad did not run this exact combination that we’re racing at Michigan,” Stucker said. “He ran the right-side compound by itself with the 2017 compound, the left-side compound. The left-side compound is meant to give a little bit more grip that perhaps we’re taking away with the right side. I hear him. He felt like he was down on grip with that particular run. But he didn’t run the combination as we’re going to have it this weekend at Michigan. I’m hoping once he gets there this weekend he’ll feel that the right side that we ran, combined with that left side, makes for a raceable package. Because all the other guys who ran the right side felt it was at least as good as the tire we raced in 2017 and perhaps even a little bit better.”

Stucker added: “Brad’s involved in a lot of our testing through the Penske organization. He provides a lot of good feedback. He really is a good tester because he’s got a good feel. He’s got good ideas and it is important for us during a tire test to get that feedback from the drivers. It’s a big piece. But that’s not the only thing we look at. We also look at the date that we generate, the data that the team’s generate and you rely on good engineering judgement as well to pull all that together to make the right decision.”

Stucker said the goal of the tire test in April was not “to go faster,” saying the track is the fastest on the circuit, with tops speeds reaching 212 mph and 175 mph in the corners.

“What we were really trying to do is create some differentiation between the top speed and let’s say the mid-corner speed,” Stucker said. “If you find the right balance between the on-throttle and off-throttle time, that’s what creates the opportunity for good racing. If everybody’s just on the throttle hard with very little off-throttle time, it kind of equates the field.

“We’ve been working with NASCAR trying to figure out, ‘What can we do at Michigan to try to create a little bit more differentiation between the on-throttle and off-throttle time?’ Then that kind of puts it in the hand of the team to try to manage that. One way we can do that is through tire wear. As tires wears they tend to lose some grip, which means you can’t run the corners as hard, so you have to manage the car a little bit more at that time. That hopefully creates different opportunities for different guys. That’s why you see guys start searching around for different grooves, move up the race track trying to find some grip … It tends to lead to good racing.”

Goodyear brings new tire to Texas

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Goodyear will bring a new left-side tire for this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 to address challenges from the recent repave and reconfiguration of Texas Motor Speedway,

The track was updated prior to the 2017 season.

Repaves typically increase adhesion, create more friction and increase the heat in the tire, while the smooth surface does not allow the rubber to shred. Goodyear will keep the same right-side tire as last year but developed the new left to allow for more rubber to be worked into the track and produce more side-by-side racing during a fuel run.

The current tire combination was a result of a test at Texas Jan. 9-10. Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola participated.

“We had a good test at Texas and we were able to address some of the challenges that all repaves present,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, in a statement. “This being just the third NASCAR Cup race since the repave, the track surface has not really had the chance to weather in, so to speak. This new left-side tire matches up well with this still smooth surface and will accomplish our goal of increased wear and laying rubber on the track. That should lead to an increased level of fall-off over the course of a fuel run and a widened racing groove.”

The new left-side tire compound will be used in both the Cup and Xfinity series.

This left-side tire construction is similar to the one used at Auto Club Speedway earlier this year.

Tire Specifications

Tire Codes: Left-side, D-4770; Right-side, D-4718

Tire Circumference: Left-side, 87.68 in.; Right-side, 88.62 in.

Minimum Recommended Inflation: Left Front, 22 psi; Left Rear, 22 psi; Right Front, 52 psi; Right Rear, 50 psi.

Set limits: Cup: 4 sets for practice, 1 set for qualifying and 9 sets for race; Xfinity: 7 sets for the event

‘Option’ tire won’t be used in All-Star race, idea not a ‘dead issue’

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A Goodyear racing executive said a softer “option” tire will not be used in May’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but the idea of it is not a “dead issue.”

Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, made the announcement Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint.”

The “option” tire was introduced last year for the exhibition race. The softer tires provided cars more grip and speed, providing lap times that were three to four-tenths of a second quicker compared to the “prime” tire.

But Stucker said that once the lights came on at Charlotte Motor Speedway, any advantage was nullified.

“I think it really lends itself to a race like the All-Star,” Stucker told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I think there’s some real opportunities there. We all kind of figured last year we needed about three to four-tenths (of a second) between the prime tire and the option tire. That’s exactly what we had when we did back to backs in the daytime. But when the race came along and it cooled down, the cooler temperatures kind of leveled everything out. I think the difference between the prime and the option wasn’t big enough last year to overcome the aerodynamic advantage of a guy who was out front.”

Stucker also said there “probably also needs to be more of a penalty that you pay” or a “compromise” when the softer tire was used.

In the race, teams could put on the “option” tire at any point. But if they put them on before the final stage, they had to restart from the rear. All teams used their “option” tire before the final stage.

Stucker said the option tire could make a reappearance soon.

“I don’t think it’s a dead issue, we’ve talked about it a couple of different times,” Stucker said. “I’m sure we’ll talk about it over the course of 2018 and perhaps see it again in 2019.”

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Cup championship crew chiefs worried about tire allotment in Miami

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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?


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.’’

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