Speeds at Michigan International Speedway have been a talking point since the 2.0-mile track was repaved but, after a tire test at the 2.0-mile track this week, the consensus of drivers present was that Goodyear's latest compounds will make for better racing.
MIS became NASCAR's fastest track in June. Marcos Ambrose's speed of 203.241mph for the Quicken Loans 400 was the 11th-fastest pole-winning speed in Cup history and the first time the pole-winning speed was faster than 200mph at a track other than Talladega or Daytona.
This week's test allowed race teams and Goodyear to check out the new tires the teams will race when the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series return in a few weeks. Goodyear combined the original tires from its April tire test with a slightly softer version of the harder tire used during the June race. The last time drivers were at MIS, the tires were very hard – a last-minute change made when some drivers experienced blistering on their tires during practice sessions.
"Back in June was our first race on this new pavement. We digested everything we saw over the weekend, in practice as well as what we had in the race," said Greg Stucker, director of racing tire sales for Goodyear. "We digested that and looked at all the data, pored over all the comments we got from the teams and drivers, made our recommendation for our package coming up in August. That is why we were here [Monday] for, just confirming that."
Though top speeds were not official, the average speeds were about 195mph, a little slower than during the April test and June's race. Greg Biffle thought the speeds, though slower, would lend themselves to exciting racing.
"Since the speed is down just a tiny bit, I think you will see that groove continue to widen out," Biffle said. "I have even floored it down lower on the racetrack, and the car has some turn in it down there. I think we are going to see some good racing.
"We were all fearful that this tire would be really low on grip and the car would be hard to drive and it would chatter out from under us. That is certainly not the case."
Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski agreed.
"Michigan is a lot different track with the repave, and we saw that here with the spring race. So we're all still just trying to get a grip on that, literally, and trying to figure it out," he said. "So Goodyear has us here to kind of reconfirm some things that we saw and hopefully improve the racing another notch here."