Amid the spring racing season, Goodyear has set an aggressive schedule of tire tests at NASCAR tracks. Beginning next week at Michigan International Speedway, Goodyear will hold four tests in a six-week stretch.
Two of the tracks at which Goodyear will test – Michigan and Pocono – will have new surfaces for 2012, thus the immediate need for tests. The other two tracks – Dover International Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway – have been designated as tracks where Goodyear continues to incorporate feedback and stay attuned with advancements NASCAR teams continue to make.
"When a track gets resurfaced, our goal is to conduct a test as soon as the asphalt curing process and weather allows," said Greg Stucker, Goodyear's director of race tires. "Michigan was finished just before last winter set in and Pocono will be completed within the next couple of weeks. Because both of those tracks will have brand new asphalt, it's a sure bet we'll return with a tire setup that's different from what has been run recently at those tracks.
"As with all repaves, Michigan and Pocono will have smoother surfaces, thus giving the cars more grip, which leads to more heat buildup in the tire. That's why tire testing is so important – we need to get on the new surface and find the right balance between controlling heat [and] providing an adequate grip level. Every facility has its unique characteristics. We'll work closely with track officials to get a gauge on the asphalt mix they're using, and combine that with our knowledge of the track configuration. Neither of these tracks are planning any significant changes to the track layout."
The Michigan test is scheduled to be held Tuesday and Wednesday. The tentative list of participating teams and drivers are the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge with Brad Keselowski, No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford with Matt Kenseth, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with Jeff Gordon and No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet with Juan Montoya.
Pocono's test is scheduled for April 24-25 with the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet with Jamie McMurray, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with Kasey Kahne, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with Joey Logano, No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge with AJ Allmendinger and No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford with Aric Almirola.
Before Pocono on the calendar, however, is the test at Dover. Goodyear will test Dover's concrete surface on April 17-18, with an eye toward controlling the "rubbering in" process.
"In talking with teams, we wanted to see if we could actually rubber in the track a little less," Stucker said. "While concrete surfaces are always tricky to take rubber, we feel like we have a good understanding of that process. Now we want to go back and see if we can strike a better balance of how much rubber gets put down while still providing the right level of grip and wear."
Participating in the Dover test will be Allmendinger, the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford with Marcos Ambrose, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet with Kevin Harvick, No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet with Dave Blaney, No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet with Ryan Newman, No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet with Kurt Busch and No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota with Martin Truex Jr.
At the end of this stretch of tire testing will be New Hampshire, scheduled for May 8-9. There, Goodyear will be looking to standardize its mile-track tire setup with what it found at Phoenix International Raceway.
"At New Hampshire, we're looking to incorporate similar construction changes to that which we found to be successful at Phoenix," Stucker said. "We've been happy with the results of that construction combination at Phoenix, and our goal is to adapt it to Loudon."
Teams scheduled to test at New Hampshire are the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet with Paul Menard, No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota with Bobby Labonte, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet with Regan Smith, No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford with Carl Edwards.