FORT WORTH, Texas – NASCAR will not regulate tire pressures at Texas Motor Speedway, and if drivers have tire failures during Sunday's race officials believe they won't be able to blame Goodyear.
Hoping to give more control over setups and strategy to race teams, NASCAR is refusing to get involved in monitoring whether teams choose to follow recommendations set each week by Goodyear.
There were multiple tire issues at California two weeks ago, and many drivers tried to blame the product Goodyear brought to the track. NASCAR insisted the issues were self-inflicted and a product of teams going far beyond the air pressure limits recommended by the manufacturer.
With a handful of drivers predicting similar problems this weekend at Texas, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said each team controls its own fate.
"We want to be open enough to give the teams opportunity to adjust and have different setups out there and be more aggressive or less aggressive whenever they sit fit," Pemberton said Thursday. "We want the teams to be able to push the limit, and that's what we expect out of them. If a guy has a tire issue that is self-inflicted and gets out of the car and blames Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., that's a bad deal. That basically is what some of them tried to do at California."
Goodyear each week presents teams minimum pounds per square inch pressure recommendations based on both testing and data from previous tires. NASCAR has maintained the majority of failures at California occurred when teams decided to go below the recommended pressure.
"I think there are some guys that went too far at California and it cost them opportunities, and there are guys that were more calculated and didn't go overboard and capitalized," Pemberton said. "So here we are coming to Texas, another fast race track, and there's concern that they will overuse the tires. But Goodyear is ahead of it and told them what it takes to fail and what it takes to succeed on left side tire pressures and it's up to teams to use them properly."
Goodyear this week presented teams a chart of recommended inflation pressures and times before a possible failure based on testing data. The manufacturer will use for the first time this season the multi-zone tread tire, which combines two distinct rubber compounds on the same right-side tire. The compound used on the outside 10 inches of the tread is designed for traction, and the compound on the inside two inches is designed for durability.
The inside compound is tougher to provide the tire a cushion for the heat and abuse it takes on certain tracks.
Goodyear used the multi-zone tire last year at Atlanta and Kansas to fairly positive feedback from drivers. Texas was a good fit because the track abuses tires and produces high speeds and loads — which both should be up this year with the current configuration of the cars.
The left side tires being used at Texas are the same as those used at the track the last two races. The right sides are the new multi-zone tires and were not track tested. Goodyear instead lab-tested the tires, attempting to replicate actual race conditions.
Goodyear director of race tire sales Greg Stucker said the lab verifies tire performance and validates pressure recommendations.
"Once we generate this data, confirming our recommendation and at which air pressures the tires need to be run, we share that information with the teams," Stucker said. "Teams have asked for some flexibility with how they set up their cars. This information is just another tool in their toolbox."
Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon questioned Goodyear's decision not to physically test the tires at Texas.
"I think we will see issues there. We saw issues there last year," Gordon said. "I think as a team we are already looking at things that we were doing last year that we can look at trying to improve as far as abusiveness on the tires for Texas. From what I understand, they didn't test in California, and I think that that was obviously a mistake because I think some of those things may have shown up in that test. Did they test in Texas? And if they didn't, then I hope they have a backup plan because I do think that we are going to have some issues there."
Pemberton said it is up to the teams to walk the fine line of pushing the limits Goodyear gives them in an effort to rise in what's shaping up to be a very competitive season.
"We want people to be aggressive. We've asked the tire manufacturer to bring better tires, we've got a better car this year than last year and we've opened up the window of opportunity with teams to either succeed or fail," Pemberton said. "All of those things coming together this year have brought us some great racing."