Goodyear is hoping for a better year in 2017—where Martinsville Speedway is concerned.
The tire maker is confident its new compound will enhance performance when NASCAR returns to the half-mile track next season.
Goodyear held a two-day confirmation test with next year’s aerodynamic package on Oct. 4-5 with drivers Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Martin Truex Jr.
Greg Stucker, Director of Racing Tire Sales and Marketing for Goodyear, was pleased with the test results.
“The focus was to improve or increase the amount of rubber we put down on the racetrack — on this concrete,” Stucker said. “So that’s what we did. We came with new compounds to do exactly that. We’re really happy with it. We put down rubber right from the start and continued to do so throughout the test. So we’re very happy with that.
“This (tire) combination was brought (to Martinsville) a couple of years to try and combat some of the grating that was occurring on the left sides. It doesn’t put rubber down, particularly when it’s cool out…but everyone wants to focus on seeing more rubber laid down on the race track, so we came to do exactly that.”
Meeting the challenge
Goodyear has struggled to lay rubber down on the a variety of tracks, but concrete surfaces have produced the greatest challenge. Although the track darkens initially, under cautions the tires pick up what rubber was on the track. From what Goodyear learned from the concrete at Bristol Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway, it elected to bring a softer compound to Martinsville for the test.
At Martinsville, competitors tested the first day and half of the second day on a clean track.
NASCAR asked Goodyear to test the same VHT sealer which was used at Bristol Motor Speedway in August to provide grip and promote side-by-side racing. Following the lunch break on the second day of the Martinsville test, workers applied Track Bite (a sticky compound used in drag racing) to the upper groove of the track. Officials elected not to use it during last Sunday’s race.
The 2016 Goody’s 500 had 15 lead changes — 10 during green flag racing. Four of the green flag lead changes were orchestrated between the Toyota teams in an effort to allow Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth to lead laps. The race had just five cautions, two single-car accidents, one from an engine failure and two for debris. Compared to the 2015 Goody’s 500, which had 18 cautions and 21 lead changes, the action almost seemed subdued. It will be interesting to see how the new tire reacts in 2017.
Goodyear held its last tire test of the season at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 17, the Monday after the Hollywood Casino 400. Stucker said there wasn’t a huge change with how the new car performed the current tire. The next tire test is scheduled the second week of January at Las Vegas to get a handle on intermediate tracks with the new car before the season begins.
Going the distance with NASCAR
Goodyear is currently renegotiating its contract with NASCAR which concludes at the end of 2017. The tire manufacturer has enjoyed a relationship with NASCAR since 1954 — and Stucker doesn’t expect that to change.
“I can tell you there have been several meetings, several conversations about moving forward,” Stucker said. “To my knowledge, there are no major hurdles. There are always little items you need to work out, particularly with the way the landscape is now.
"You have a new TV contract and new social media landscape. I think those are the biggest things that need to be worked through — where we want to focus our efforts, the exposure. How you want to use our assets. That still needs to be worked out.
“But as far as the operational side, the performance side, I think we’re good.”
While there have been rumblings about other tire manufacturers attempting to get in the game, Stucker isn’t aware of any competition in the category moving forward.