NASCAR/Goodyear teleconference, part 1

Goodyear and NASCAR Press Conference Transcript Stu Grant, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Robin Pemberton Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008, Indianapolis Motor Speedway MODERATOR: We appreciate everyone coming in today for the Goodyear tire test. It's always...

Goodyear and NASCAR Press Conference Transcript
Stu Grant, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Robin Pemberton
Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

MODERATOR: We appreciate everyone coming in today for the Goodyear tire test. It's always good to be back here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but we thought we'd give you all an update on the hard work that's being done by Goodyear and NASCAR and others. To do that we've got Stu Grant, who is general manager of Goodyear Worldwide Racing that's here with us. Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition for NASCAR, and in a few minutes we'll bring in a couple of drivers, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin.

At this time, I'll turn it over to Stu Grant. He'll make some comments, and we'll open it up for questions from the floor. Go ahead, Stu.

STU GRANT: Thank you, Kerry. We tested here in the spring of '08 and developed our tire recommendation. We felt that everything went as planned and we chose a proven right-side compound for this Car of Tomorrow, first Car of Tomorrow race at this facility. Again, one of the reasons we did that was we wanted to have a known quantity of proven compound. We did not see anything out of the ordinary at our tire test, but when we got here for the race, we did not have the results that we had anticipated. The high wear rates that we initially saw just never went away. And the track never rubbered in, and we never got more than about 10 laps on the right rear, 10 to 12 laps the entire race.

So after that, we did an extensive analysis of everything involved in the equation, looking at the tire operating conditions, looking at the manufacturing of the tire itself, looking at the track surface and so on, just to leave no stone unturned. And just kind of let me tell you a little bit about that whole analysis to bring you up to speed on where we are in that whole process.

The first thing we did was we wanted to verify that the right-side tread compound was exactly what we intended it to be. We did all that research internally in our own manufacturing process and everything. We were satisfied that everything was fine. We actually went as far as checking our raw material suppliers, as well, just to make sure that we didn't have a raw material supplier change that would have indicated, would have perhaps given us some different results on the racetrack like we saw. We didn't experience anything there.

So then we began the rest of the analysis, and it was really interesting. We gathered a lot of the rubber-particle dust from the race that we had here in July to analyze the particle size. We looked at the tire operating conditions and, you know, we saw that the additional load and additional slip that the right rear tire saw was considerably more than it was in 2007. Then we started to do some laboratory analysis to try to figure out, 'OK, why did we see that kind of wear debris, why did the track not rubber in?' To make a long story short, what we found out was that the additional load and slip that the right rear tire saw changed the particle size of the wear debris. Instead of seeing the rubbered-in racetrack like we saw in 2006 and '07 on that compound, the particle size was so much smaller. If you were here, you saw it, it was this dry, dusty wear, and consequently the track never did rubber in.

So the next thing we did was, again internally in our laboratory, we said, 'All right, let's change this tread formulation, modify it to see if we can change the abradability of the compound, and increase, change the particle size so it's conventional, you saw conventional wear characteristics.' We were able to do that. So that's kind of been the path we've been going down. Knowing that we needed to change that particle size, we've done formulations that give you the stickier wear, for lack of another term.

We came here, we tested with Kyle Petty a couple weeks ago, saw some very, very encouraging results out of that test. And, you know, of course we're here with a lot more cars yesterday and today, and perhaps tomorrow. We've got what we believe to be a good start toward a 2009 race recommendation and, you know, just look at the racetrack, you can see there's a groove in the racetrack where the cars are going around, just kind of looking normal. We've got rubber debris on the outside of the groove, and we're seeing some significant improvements in wear.

So what's our objective out of this test? You know, we're going to test again in April to finalize our '09 tire recommendation. This is a big step in order to gather data to determine what we want to do to finalize our tire recommendation next April. But I can say at this point that we're really, really encouraged with the results that we have seen in terms of our tire wear at this test so far.

MODERATOR: OK, thank you, Stu. Now we'll take questions. If you have a question for either Stu or Robin, raise your hand. We have a wireless mike here in the audience. This is being streamed live, so if you can state your name and affiliation, we'd appreciate it. Thanks.

Q: Jamie Little, ESPN. Right now, obviously, it's a lot cooler here on the track from when we raced here in July. How big a factor is that and is that why you're coming back in April?

GRANT: Historically you see higher wear rates when it's colder. What happens is, when the track heats up, I don't care what track it is, the track heats up, oil comes out of the racetrack, things get a little slippery, and the wear is not as severe as it is when it's colder. But you see probably more of an effect on ambient temperature -- sorry, you see more of an effect on tire running temperature maybe than you do on tread wear. But I don't see a significant effect on the cooler temperatures on tread wear that we see today, no.

MODERATOR: Who has the next question?

Q: Rich Nye with WTHR here in Indianapolis. Stu, can you explain it in a simple term as did you need a harder or a softer tire here or is it that simple to explain?

GRANT: Simple terms, softer. I used the word 'stickier.' Honestly, what we did was we got a lot of our research scientists involved in analyzing this whole project, and they're kind of interested in getting involved with particle sizes and things like that. So when we gave them the challenge of, 'All right, increase the particle size of this abraded rubber,' they took it on and made some formulation, adjustments to give us this sticky wear. And I guess to simplify it, softer would be a better term, yeah. Softer rather than harder, correct.

MODERATOR: Next question. We've got one up front here, please.

Q: Stu, Dick Mittman, 500 Old-Timer. Have you ever had this happen before this drastically as happened this last time?

GRANT: No, we have never seen anything this drastic, I have to say. But, again, looking back when we had some discussions with NASCAR about -- here, let me back up. About what, three weeks to a month after Indianapolis, we went down to Daytona and shared with NASCAR what our theory was at that point in time. One of the things that came out as a result of that discussion was: 'You know, you guys, we're kind of seeing the same wear, dusty wear characteristics at Dover. It's an abrasive surface, it's concrete. You know, we have Dover coming up, maybe you should look at that tire recommendation and maybe use that to see if your theory is correct or not.' That's what we did. We changed the right side rubber for the second Dover race and made it a little softer, a little stickier, and the results were great. We had an excellent race at Dover; the wear was conventional and it really made a difference.

So, honestly, you know, Dover by no means was as severe a condition from a tire wear standpoint as Indianapolis, but we did see the same tendency there, and we were able to make an improvement there with our, using our theory we developed out of our Indianapolis analysis.

MODERATOR: Other questions? Got one right there. Go ahead.

Q: John Oreovicz, Stu, I've covered IndyCar racing for the last 15 years, and Goodyear was involved for about half of that. Tire failures, I can't remember the last major tire issue they had in IndyCar racing. Simply, why is it so difficult to produce a safe and reliable tire for NASCAR?

GRANT: I like to think we produce a safe and reliable product. I will also say the operating conditions a NASCAR car sees is considerably different than the Indianapolis tire. You're talking about a car that's twice as heavy, tire that's half as big, so the unit tread pressure is significantly higher on a NASCAR tire than an Indianapolis tire. It's just a different operating condition.

Q: John Schwarb, I'm sure you haven't had time to analyze everything that happened at Talladega, but how surprised are you what happened there, especially considering that track is known as being smooth, nothing like the abrasive surface here?

GRANT: That was unusual, wasn't it, because like you say, Talladega is a very smooth racetrack and we've had very good races there in the past. I mean, I'll tell you at this point, we are taking all the tires that lost air back to Akron for analysis. I will tell you right now, at this point the indications are those are punctures from the racetrack or something off the car. If you look at the way the race developed, you had essentially the race started off with a green-flag run with a debris caution about the time of the fuel stop, and we ran about 50 laps without any issues. In a 40-lap span in the middle of the race, with very few laps on those right-side tires, we had four right-side air losses for whatever reason in that period. Then for the next 100 laps, everything was fine again.

So like I say, we're going to complete our analysis, but that's our early indication.

Q: Did you say there were four punctures, and they were all right sides?

GRANT: That's our theory at the moment. Again, the engineers on site at the time were able to determine that the first one, Reutimann's was a puncture; they found that. The next three we're bringing back to look at.

Q: Steve Ballard from the Indianapolis Star. You said there were no indications of any problems when you tested here in the spring. Do you have a sense at all of why the problems didn't show up then, or what might have changed between the spring and when you came in to race?

GRANT: What we saw in the spring at our tire test was right-side tires that wore out in about 10 laps. But we saw that in '06 and we saw that in '05. So at that point in time, there was not an unusual data point for us. Fine, the right side -- there's hardly any rubber on the racetracks, we're here with three cars, 10 laps on the right-side tire, not a problem because we know that we all know that the track is going to rubber in just like it had in '06 and just like it did in '05, same compound, it should rubber in. All those things we thought were going to happen. We made the mistake of assuming that the track would rubber in, and it did not.

MODERATOR: Question right here and then we'll jump over there. Go ahead.

Q: Robin, is the Car of Tomorrow involved at all in this situation?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, the teams have made some tremendous gains with it. We haven't made any rule changes, but the teams have caught up and found ways to make their cars handle. And, you know, that being said, it's also made it more difficult for Goodyear. As speed gets into the cars, it creates a little bit different scenario for tire wear. One of the things that we had done on a test a couple weeks ago was take some of the bits that the teams have used early in the year that have changed and became more fashionable, whether it's the rear steer of the cars or anything like that, and then to go in there and try to make sure that that is not what has added to the extra wear and tear. So we've put a check in a box of a lot of those bits and pieces that the teams have used to improve the handling of their cars. So it's -- as the car evolves, and it will continue to evolve just like all race cars do over years, it will be a moving target for Goodyear and everybody involved.

MODERATOR: We also have up here now with us two of our drivers were kind enough to come by today for a few minutes and visit with you. Of course, we've got Mark Martin, one of the veteran standouts in our sport, we appreciate Mark coming by. And Kasey Kahne, as well. So they'll both be available for questions, as well. So we'll continue with the Q and A. If you have a question, raise your hand.

PEMBERTON: Mark did the Dover retest when we did the new tire at this last race.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kyle Petty , Kasey Kahne , Jamie Little , Mark Martin