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In the ‘Zone’: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tests Goodyear’s New Tire At Kansas
“It” is the innovative “multi-zone tread” Goodyear tire that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers tested Thursday at Kansas Speedway, and will use during Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, the fourth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (2 p.m. ET on ESPN, Motor Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio).
Goodyear developed two zones on the right side tires: the outer zone dubbed the “traction zone” – which was made of a sticky and more grip-oriented compound – and the “inner zone” – also known as the “endurance zone” – which was built with a firmer compound to help prolong the tire life.
Thirty-eight drivers tested the new tire during a three-plus hour session at Kansas Speedway that was delayed by rain. Jimmie Johnson turned the fastest lap at 182.648 mph, followed by Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard. Points leader Matt Kenseth was 13th on the speed charts.
Goodyear’s multi-zone tread tire debuted at Atlanta Motor Speedway last month, resulting in shattered passing records. Throughout the 500-mile event, there were 3,748 green flag passes – 190 more than the old record, and 1,200 more than last year’s figure.
At Atlanta, the new tire’s durability counterbalanced the rough racing surface. At Kansas Speedway, which repaved its racing surface last year, the “multi-zone tread” tire’s design will add grip to combat the new, slick surface.
“The tire seems to drive really well,” said Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. “I think it's going to be a two or three groove race track, so that good for all of us. …
I believe you'll see two or three lane racing [on Sunday].”
“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.” Gordon ranked 11th on the speed charts with a lap of 180.783 mph.
Kenseth, who has won each of the last two races at Kansas, called today’s test a “struggle” – but the championship frontrunner who has won two of the first three Chase races remained optimistic.
“I'm not really that concerned,” said Kenseth, driver of the Dollar General Toyota. “We had a lot of things that we wanted to do day, but we didn't get many of them done because we sort of struggled today. You always wish it was more of a productive day. But on the other hand, you can be thankful that it was a free test day and we could start over tomorrow.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby offered a “no news is good news” critique of today’s tire test.
“We didn't see anything, which is good news,” Darby said. “One of the exciting parts of having it here at Kansas is because this is a recently repaved track that's very smooth. We ran the zone tread at Atlanta without any technical issues or failures and had a good race. But that’s on a very aggressive, coarse track surface. We had that example. This is the other end of the spectrum for the tire. It’s fresh pavement that’s smooth.”
On-track NASCAR action at Kansas will continue Friday starting with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at 12:30 p.m. ET.