|Opinions differ on new Goodyear tire for Kansas|
|Friday, October 04, 2013 12:14 AM|
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Chase leader Matt Kenseth could be forgiven for a relatively sour opinion of the tire that Goodyear brought to Kansas Speedway this weekend.
It’s not that he dislikes the “multi-zone tread” that made its debut Sept. 1 at Atlanta. It’s just that the defending race winner at Kansas would have been happier with the status quo.
“I would have rather left everything alone, for us, especially after today,” Kenseth said after Thursday’s tire test. “Today was a struggle and any time something is new and you struggle where you’ve had success, you kind of wish you could go back.”
That’s not happening, though, so Kenseth’s crew will have to figure things out in a hurry.
It’s rare that NASCAR changes tires between spring and fall races on the same track but vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said it made sense at repaved Kansas Speedway.
The glassy smooth surface of the newly pave track resulted in trouble with grip during the spring race, leaving Goodyear trying to come up with a solution. Four teams tried out the multi-zone tread earlier this summer and the rest of the field got its chance to test Thursday.
“I thought the track had good grip,” observed Jeff Gordon, who’s tied with Kevin Harvick for fourth in the Chase. “It lost a little bit probably due to track temp toward the end of the day. It would help to lay some rubber down but I’m not so sure this tire is going to do that.”
Goodyear has used multi-zone treads on passenger cars for years but only recently brought the technology to NASCAR. The idea is to meld two different compounds onto a single tire, one of them offering better traction and the other better endurance.
So in the case of the tires the Sprint Cup will be running this weekend, the outer portion of the tire features a more tractive tread for better grip and handling. The inside shoulder offers a firmer compound that helps manage wear for better durability.
“Typically we don’t have a midseason code changes on tires between the spring and fall but this is a unique set of circumstances with the repave,” Pemberton said. “Goodyear has gone above and beyond to develop tires and bring the best stuff they can to the racetrack. But it’s a test we didn’t have planned on the books to do.”
Jimmie Johnson was the fastest of 38 drivers who tested the new tires during a 3-hour session that was delayed by rain. Johnson, who is second in the Chase, turned a fast lap of 182.648 mph near the end of the test. He was followed by Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch on the speed chart.
Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said that the best news out of the tire test was that there was very little news. Nobody had much trouble with grip and early opinions were positive.
“One of the exciting parts about having it here at Kansas is because this is a recently paved track, it’s very smooth,” Darby added. “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, one that is known to chew up tires. We had that example,and this is the other end of the spectrum.”
Edwards and Gordon both endorsed the tire, even if Kenseth preferred it had stayed the same.
“At the beginning of the day, the tire had a ton more grip and as it rubbered up it got a lot more slick,” Edwards said. “But you could actually drive it. It’s not a knife-edge, hard to drive. So I believe you’ll see 2- and 3-wide racing this weekend.”
Penske tired of coming up short in title race
HOUSTON — Roger Penske’s drivers have had five different chances to win him an IndyCar championship since Sam Hornish Jr. claimed the 2006 title.
Helio Castroneves had a shot in 2008 and came up short. Same with Ryan Briscoe in 2009. Then it was Will Power the last three years.
“I’ve been second so many times, I don’t want to see No. 2 anymore,” Penske said in a telephone interview this week with The Associated Press. “We had this thing in our hand probably three out of the last four years and ended up a bridesmaid. So I think that this year, we’ve got a big lead and we need to protect it and race that way. My goal is to come out with a championship.”
Got that, Helio?
Castroneves goes into the Grand Prix of Houston this weekend with a 49-point lead over Scott Dixon while seeking his first IndyCar Series championship. The drivers head into the event after a nearly 5-week layoff — IndyCar’s last points race was Sept. 1 at Baltimore — and will race Saturday and Sunday as part of a doubleheader weekend.
That’s ample time for Dixon, a 2-time champion, to pounce: He climbed into the title race with a July win on the oval at Pocono followed the next week with a sweep of the doubleheader event at Toronto. Those three wins in seven days moved the Chip Ganassi Racing driver from seventh to second in the IndyCar standings and directly into Castroneves’ rearview mirrors.
It’s the last thing Penske wanted to see.
Dixon beat Castroneves for the 2008 title by 18 points even though Castroneves won the season finale. In 2009, Briscoe went into the finale locked into the title race with Ganassi drivers Dixon and Dario Franchitti. After leading a race-high 103 laps, Briscoe had to make a late stop for fuel and Franchitti won the title.
Franchitti then beat Power in 2010 and 2011 as Ganassi beat Penske four consecutive years for the championship. Last season, it was Ryan Hunter-Reay from Andretti Autosport defeating Penske Racing, in part because Power crashed midway through the final race.
“I’m not naive to know that there’s not some competition out there with Ganassi and with little Andretti but at the end of the day there’s a number of guys who can win the races and we’re going to have to be one of them,” Penske said. “Helio’s got a nice lead but he’s got to execute. We’re in a different situation than maybe the people who are chasing us.”
Penske said he spoke with Castroneves earlier this week,and described the Brazilian as “galvanized” for the stretch run. The season concludes Oct. 19 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Castroneves was fastest during last week’s open test session.
“He was quick and felt very good,” Penske said. “He’s raring to go. These guys don’t like to go off and sit for two or three weeks. But you know Helio. He’s a pro, this is a championship that he wants and it’s going to be up to the other guys to beat us.”
And just to make sure that everything goes according to plan, Penske announced he’ll be on top of Castroneves’ pit stand for the final three races. The team owner replaced race strategist John Erickson at Texas in June and has been calling Castroneves’ races during the second half of the season. Penske was not at the Sept. 1 race at Baltimore, where Castroneves finished ninth.
“I’ll call the last three races for sure,” Penske added. “If there’s any mistakes, any issues, you can blame it on me.”