CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The common denominator among all NASCAR drivers is that they all want more grip from their tires.
It has been difficult for manufacturer Goodyear to meet the demand at a track like Atlanta Motor Speedway without sacrificing reliability. But Goodyear has taken steps to address both issues with a new "zone tread" technology, which will be used for the first time at this weekend's race in Atlanta.
"Historically, Atlanta is one of the more difficult race tracks on tires and equipment, and this tire gives us the ability to improve performance," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said. "Combining the high speeds we always see at Atlanta with the high loads in the corners and the abrasive surface that brings tire wear into play, this is the ideal track to debut this technology."
The tires, most recently tested Aug. 6 at Atlanta by 13 teams, combine two different compounds to create a rubber capable of withstanding race conditions while also providing the grip drivers desire. The inside of the right-side tires uses the same compound Goodyear used at Michigan this year, and the outside uses the compound from previous Atlanta races.
Goodyear found that the inside of the right-side tires suffers the most abuse during a race at Atlanta because of stress loads, and has gone back and forth in tire development. Hard tire compounds lack grip and don't wear out very fast, while softer compounds have the grip that drivers want but aren't reliable.
"Atlanta is one of our biggest challenges from a tire perspective. The abrasive surface causes extremely high wear, while the length and layout promote very high speeds," said Stu Grant, Goodyear's general manager of worldwide racing. "What we've done here is take a specific rubber compound and limit the application to the inside shoulder, and then have a more tractive compound across the rest of the tread."
Jamie McMurray crew chief Kevin Manion said the tire held up well at the Atlanta test over long runs.
"It could handle the harshness of the Atlanta track," Manion said. "The applications may not be quite endless, but on tracks that have been repaved or where cars lack grip, Goodyear can potentially beef up the inside edge of the tread to help control heat and then use a different compound on the outside of the tread to give more grip on entry and exit, which would be a good advance."
Pemberton, who noted NASCAR's new Gen-6 car has already broken 13 speed records this season, believes the technology will lead to better racing long term. Immediately, at Atlanta, the increased downforce levels of NASCAR's new car should lead to a better show than last year, but the new tires will contribute, too.
"Goodyear always has to build a tire for the most stressful conditions possible," Pemberton said. "This multi-zone tire means they can not only build safer tires, but also tires that will allow for enhanced competition for both our competitors and our fans."