Tire tweaks? Indianapolis test on tap this week – Nascar
Four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams will travel to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week for a two-day Goodyear tire test at the legendary 2.5-mile facility.
Drivers scheduled to take part in the test, set for Tuesday and Wednesday, are Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Team Penske Ford), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota), David Ragan (No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet).
The Brickyard 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is scheduled for July 23.
“It seems like the last couple of years (Indy) has fairly well stabilized after the grinding that they did,” Goodyear’s Greg Stucker told NASCAR.com. “Kind of knocked the edges off the grooves in the surface. But the last couple of years we’ve felt like we were getting to the point that we could look at adding a little bit of grip. Particularly with the move from ’16 to ’17 with a little less downforce.”
NASCAR’s 2017 rules package created less overall downforce (from 2,100 to 1,600 pounds) on the cars through changes to the rear spoiler, front splitter and deck fin. Modifications to rear steer settings and a new tire rule (teams must start the race using the tires on which they qualified) were also made.
While significant, the changes were an evolution of the initial package that debuted in ’15 at select events when the sanctioning body began the move to take downforce away from the cars. Those changes were implemented for all races (excluding superspeedway events at Daytona and Talladega) in ’16.
Stucker, Goodyear’s director of race tire sales, said an XFINITY Series test last October at Indy opened the door for a possible tire change in the Monster Energy Series.
“When we tested with the XFINITY cars last year in preparation for their new configuration, we actually were running a little bit softer left side. It’s the left side (tire) that we run at Pocono,” he said. “So that gave us an indication, ‘Hey, this might be something that we can standardize between Pocono and Indy, give the Cup cars a little more grip.’ So that’s one of the main goals, to look at that and see if that’s a good move for Indianapolis this year and add a little bit more left-side grip.”
Stucker said the continued evolution of the rules package has not “significantly” impacted tire selection. The big bump, he said, came between ’15 and ’16 as the initial lower-downforce package was rolled out.
“Because that was the plan,” he said. “The big step from ’15 to ’16 (was) ‘let’s figure out where we land with tires and if we feel like we’re in a good spot, even though we’re taking more downforce off as we go to ’17, let’s leave tires alone.'”
But as the cars have evolved and tracks age and undergo repaves, Goodyear continues to monitor the situation and addresses the changing needs.
“There are a couple of areas we wanted to work on,” he said. “Kansas at the end of last year, obviously we’re going to come with a little bit softer left side (tire), because we felt we were in that position even with the ’16 package as we went to ’17 and less downforce, that was a good move. Obviously Martinsville (was) a different focus, to rubber in the race track. Texas with the repave; Kentucky with a new top coat on now. Las Vegas, trying to generate a little more wear on a surface that generally doesn’t create wear.
“We had a few things to work on but it wasn’t a significant move in grip like I would call the ’15 to ’16 move. Overall things are pretty stable and we’re kind of fine-tuning specific race tracks that we feel like we can help a little bit.”
There currently are no plans to test at Texas, which was repaved and reconfigured prior to this month’s race. Due to time constraints, there was no tire test at the 1.5-mile track.
Stucker said officials were pleased with the Texas tire selection, which was the same left-side tire code used by teams at Kentucky in 2016 (Kentucky underwent a similar repave and Goodyear did conduct tire tests prior to that race). The right-side Texas tire featured the same tread compound as Kentucky but with a minor construction change.
“You have to be cautious,” he said. “With the (Texas) repave, we raced on it right after it was done. It’s not going to change significantly as we get into the fall. I think the race track was very happy. … We certainly are.
“Again, hat’s off to the race track and to SMI for doing everything they could to put some rubber down with the Tire Dragon and trying to work the groove in. I think that was huge. And I think that was complimented with a pretty racy package from what we had.”