This past weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Goodyear, the official tire of NASCAR, debuted a new tire technology utilizing multi-zone tread technology.
And after several tests, as well as during the race with multiple green flag stops with no major issues, Goodyear has pronounced their new tire good.
“Without question, the debut of our multi-zone tread technology at Atlanta was a success,” Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s Director of Racing, said. “The right-side tire, with the firmer, heat resistant compound on the inboard portion of the tire, and the more tractive compound on the outboard, enabled the cars to put on great races in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.”
“Certainly this confirms our plan to utilize this technology for the October ace weekend in Kansas, and actively evaluate its application at other tracks.”
“I would agree that the new tire debut at Atlanta was a complete success,” Justin Fantozzi, Marketing Manager for Global Race Tires for Goodyear, said. “Folks here are very proud of the result.”
While the technology is certainly different, the process of development for the new tire was different as well. With this new tire technology, the concept came from the passenger vehicle side to the racing venue, which is opposite of how most tire advances take place.
“Normally, it is track to street but this was one of the technologies that was street to track,” Fantozzi said. “This technology was used in our triple tread passenger tires for dry, rain and snow.”
“So, for the racing tires, the idea was to balance durability and heat versus grip and traction whereas on a consumer tire, it is all about the weather balance.”
“Since we don’t race in the rain, we had to balance the durability and heat instead.”
One of the other challenges for the new tire was to ensure that the zones where positioned where they needed to be.
“You have to be very diligent that the zones go where you need them to go,” Fantozzi said. “But for us, that’s very simple because the yellow letters are only on one side of the tire and they are always facing out.”
“So, we know exactly which zone has the firmer compound on it and which zone has the more tractive compound.”
What most fans may not realize is that the development of this particular new tire technology has been two years in the making for Goodyear.
“There isn’t a call center or an 800 number that the crew chiefs and drivers call to get to a customer service representative for the tires,” Fantozzi said. “We actually send our development team to the race track.”
“There is a one-to-one relationship so that if someone has an issue at the race track, we get the feedback as we develop the tire,” Fantozzi continued. “At the same time, there are folks who don’t travel that are working on developing the new technology.”
“So, that’s how it all started.”
After the Goodyear scientists worked their magic in the lab, the tire actually was tested not just once but twice before showing up at Atlanta.
“We brought it to the race track in a couple of tests,” Fantozzi said. “The first test was the development test, which was about 65 days ago.”
“And then we felt that a change was enough that each and every team needed to feel it,” Fantozzi continued. “So, we went back to Atlanta with a confirmation test thirty days before the event.”
“At the development test, we had one of each of the manufacturers there and at the confirmation test, we invited one of each one of the teams,” Fantozzi said. “So, we had 13 vehicles at the confirmation test.”
“Then we were ready to take it to the track,” Fantozzi continued. “We had three fuel stops at Atlanta with no issues so everybody was pretty proud of that and we’ll continue the cadence on the development side and see where else the technology can fit and become a solution at the race track.”
Goodyear also had the challenge of not only developing their new tire technology but also melding that into the new Gen 6 race car. And while Goodyear had to balance speed and safety, they also had to deal with a new challenge, heat.
“The other part of it that we’ve seen with the new car is the heat,” Fantozzi said. ”And it doesn’t come in the traditional sense that the faster you go, the more heat you have.”
“We’re seeing a lot of the heat not only in compartment where the tires are but in the race car itself,” Fantozzi continued. “So, the crew chiefs are balancing off the heat as well.”
“That’s probably the biggest change with the car,” Fantozzi said. “It is different from a dynamic standpoint when the tires are able to seal off and there is no air flow through the tire compartment or in the car because that’s where the challenge comes.”
Surprisingly, Goodyear did not have to bring extra personnel to the Atlanta Motor Speedway to assist with the new tire. But for Goodyear, they always come with an extensive cadre of staff and engineers, ready to assist with any and all tire issues that may occur.
“We had a couple more engineers on site at Atlanta than we would normally have but not extreme,” Fantozzi said. “I think we had just one or two more folks.”
“Because of the cadence we keep every weekend, with the mounters, changers and engineers and those on the business side of it, there can be sixty folks on the ground carrying the Goodyear banner,” Fantozzi continued. “So, we didn’t need to bring too many more folks.”
“One of the guys that doesn’t travel but has worked eighteen or twenty-four months on the tire wanted to see it, so he came,” Fantozzi said. “It’s those type of folks who joined us in Atlanta.”
While there were no doubt a few Goodyear nerves on pit road, all was dispelled after the race got underway.
“You can test as much as you want to but at Atlanta, when we got through the first set of green flag stops, the confidence level went up with the assurance that what we had brought to the race track was proven,” Fantozzi said. “We were very, very happy with that first green flag run and then we ended up having another set and a third and that just led to even more confirmation.”
“We have pride in what we bring to the race track.”
Although Goodyear pronounced the new tire good, there were plenty of drivers and crew chiefs who concurred as well.
“I think Goodyear did a good job there from my perspective,” Dave Rogers, winning Atlanta crew chief, said.
“It ran pretty good for me,” Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Penske Ford, said. “Every time we had a pit stop Todd (Gordon, crew chief) came on the radio and said that the tires look good.”
“It seemed like it was a pretty solid tire,” Logano continued. “It hung in strong and I thought it put on a good race.”
Goodyear confirmed that it will next race the special zone-tread tires at Kansas Speedway.
“We waited until after we got confirmation in Atlanta that the concept was valid,” Fantozzi said. “And so we’ll have a multi-zone tire, a different one, for the Kansas fall race.”
“And that is in the cadence of development for 2014 and we have to get to the race track to get that balance and then see where else it will fit into the race events.”