While Nascar has a reputation for being as simple as the steel tube-frame designs of its cars, the reality is that plenty of technology in America's biggest racing series is positively state of the art. Another bit of sophistication debuts with Goodyear's new tires this weekend in Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"Atlanta is one of our biggest challenges from a tire perspective," says Stu Grant, Goodyear's general manager of worldwide racing. "The abrasive track surface causes extremely high wear, while the length and layout promote very high speeds."
Facing the dual challenge of a need for grip—which tends to require softer rubber—and the need for high-speed durability—which tends to require harder rubber—Goodyear built a tire that incorporates two different rubber compounds in the tread surface. For now, this technology goes on only the right-side tires, which suffer most during counterclockwise oval races.
Goodyear builds a hard inside shoulder of the tire for enhanced durability. The outer two-thirds of the tire employ a stickier, less durable compound for maximum grip in turns. The harder rubber is on the inside because teams tune their cars with abundant camber for tracks like Atlanta, Grant says, leaning the tire heavily onto its inner shoulder to help the cars turn.
The company has been testing its Multi-Zone Tread Technology at tracks all season, including a final test at AMS in which 13 teams participated. The new rubber should be well-sorted before the green flag waves.
"Teams were able to tune their cars to the tire and get the balance of the car right," Grant says. "Drivers seemed pleased with the performance during the test, and we expect similar results for the races this weekend."
Following the Atlanta race, Goodyear will decide whether the new tire should be used at other tracks. Fast tracks like Kansas, Michigan, Texas, and Las Vegas are all candidates, Grant says.
If the dual-compound strategy sounds familiar, it's because Goodyear already uses the concept in its Assurance TripleTred street tires. In 2009, Goodyear introduced a rain tire for Nascar's Nationwide series that featured a tread pattern derived from the Eagle F1 all-season tire, so the company has refined street technology for the track before.