By Mike Harris Associated Press
LONG POND, Pa. — A bigger tire could be in NASCAR’s future.
In the wake of last week’s tire controversy at Indianapolis, where some of its tires failed, Goodyear is looking ahead to a tire that could work better with NASCAR’s new Car of Tomorrow, a bigger, heavier vehicle than the previous models used in Sprint Cup.
“We had some discussion about a larger tire … several years ago with NASCAR when we started this whole discussion about the Car of Tomorrow,” said Stu Grant, general manager of worldwide racing for Goodyear, the exclusive tire supplier for NASCAR’s top three professional series.
“But, obviously, we’ve been working with the current size on the Car of Tomorrow. This spring, we decided to ramp that (new) program up.”
Grant said there would be several differences from the current tire.
“We are working on a larger contain-air volume, a bigger section width, taller tire, larger bead diameter,” he said. “Right now, it’s all modeling. We’re trying to figure out what the right size would be.”
Goodyear hopes the bigger tire would be a better match for the CoT, but it will be two years before the new model would be available. Grant said NASCAR has been “totally supportive.”
The problems at Indy, where rightside tires, and particularly right rears, were wearing out much too fast, was completely different from Atlanta, where Goodyear also had a disastrous race in March. In that race, drivers complained bitterly about the rubber compound, saying the tire was undriveable.
“That was the most pathetic racing tire I’ve ever been on in my professional career,” an angry Tony Stewart said after the Atlanta race.
Grant said Goodyear was too conservative in its tire choice for Atlanta and will be bettered prepared for the October race in Georgia.
The company held a test at Atlanta two weeks ago, but the temperatures were near 100, much hotter than it will be for the fall race. So Grant said Goodyear will probably go back for one more test before October.
FAST FIX: Jimmie Johnson dodged a bullet when his crew was able to fix a gearshift problem Friday before the two-time reigning Cup champion won the pole.
Johnson said he couldn’t use first or second gear in practice and relied on his crew to help him get started.
“My guys would just push me off and I would put it in third gear,” Johnson said.
“My spotter did a good job of getting me onto the track where I didn’t have to stop at the end of pit road again. I don’t think I would have gotten going at that point. It really didn’t affect the performance of the car, it just made it a little frustrating and added some tension to the day.”
Fortunately for Johnson, there is no penalty for fixing the transmission before qualifying. If it had happened afterward, Johnson would have had to start from the rear of the 43-car field.
BEER PARTY: Anheuser-Busch has signed a multiyear sponsorship renewal with Daytona International Speedway that includes continuing the Budweiser Shootout.
It appears fears that the St. Louis brewer would cut back on its sports marketing and sponsorship under new owner InBev, known for its cost-cutting ways, could at least partially be put to rest by the new agreement that also includes exclusive alcohol and non-alcohol malt beverage sponsorship of the race weekend, four new interior track wall signs, and sponsorship of the annual Budweiser Shootout Draw Party, televised by Speed Channel, as well as the post-race infield concert.
“February is the start of our important spring selling season, and big events such as the Budweiser Shootout and Daytona 500, plus the Super Bowl, NHL and NBA All-Star weekends, provide a powerful combination to excite consumers and energize our wholesaler family,” said Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch.
The Shootout, a non-points race for the previous season’s pole winners and former race winners, will be run Feb. 7.
NO COMMENT: Two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart, who has often sounded off about tires, rules and anything else that affects NASCAR, was a model of tact Friday at Pocono Raceway.
Asked whether the two 500-mile Cup races at Pocono, run just six weeks apart, are too long, he replied: “Let me ask you a question: Does my opinion really matter at the end of the day? And if I had an opinion, would it change anything? Probably not. We’ll let Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. do it, but I’m not sure my opinion counts.”