Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup practice sessions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway appeared to confirm the optimism going into the weekend that the tire issues that hampered last year's running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard have been finally solved.
Although no driver ran a full fuel run, which is about 34 laps, on the same set of tires, according to Goodyear's Greg Stucker they were able to run up to 27 consecutive laps on a single set during Friday's opening session with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Mark Martin set the pace in his No. Carquest/Kellogg's Chevrolet, turning a fast lap of 180.643 mph on the 2.5-mile IMS oval. Juan Pablo Montoya was second at 180.581 in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
Martin's Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon was one of several drivers who confirmed there were no problems with excessive wear despite the track still being green during Friday.
"I think the tires are a non-issue," said Gordon, who ran around 20 laps on a single set on Friday. "I think we need to move to an all-new subject because it's done. They have created a great tire. If anybody has an issue with tires, it's not because they're wearing out.
"[Goodyear has] done a great job, they've backed it up with testing and they've now proven it here at the racetrack where I think is the most crucial practice that we had. I could've probably ran all day long on one set of tires if I wanted to."
Stucker said that despite all the preparation that took place for this year's race on Goodyear's side, he was still a bit nervous before a car turned a wheel during the opening practice at Indianapolis.
A total of seven tests were needed since last year's race for the tyre manufacturer to find the right specification of tires for the unique combination of surface and layout that it faces at the 2.5-mile track.
"We thought we had asked ourselves all the questions, made sure we had all the answers," said Stucker. "Both of the last two tests were dressed rehearsals for this weekend and everything looked great. We felt like we ran on all kinds of different weather, under a lot of different conditions, green racetrack, with a lot of rain during the month of May and prior to that first June test.
"Nonetheless you're still a little bit apprehensive but that was all gone pretty quick when we saw the track take rubber right away."
Although there is a considerable chance of showers at Indy during the weekend, Goodyear officials were confident that even if all the rubber gets washed out before the race, there should not be a repeat of last year's issues.
Kasey Kahne was third fastest in his No. 9 Budweiser Dodge at 180.245mph, while 2003 Allstate 400 winner Kevin Harvick was fourth at 179.727 and Reed Sorenson, who won the Brickyard pole in 2007, was fifth at 179.716.
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