Sounding a little like the guy on television who promises you'll look good in one of his new suits, Jeff Gordon put his reputation on the line Tuesday in promising fans they'll get the kind of show they deserve at the July 26 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
When NASCAR's Sprint Cup cars return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Gordon says, the tyre wear that made such a debacle of the 2008 event will be a dead issue.
“I will guarantee it,” said Gordon, one of twelve drivers participating in the two-day confirmation tests of the tyre Goodyear will bring to the Brickyard this year. “I'm 100 per cent confident. I ran this tyre as hard as I possibly could, put numerous laps on them. It's a dead issue.
“It might come down to fuel mileage. It might come down to a lot of different factors — fastest car, not the fastest car, track position, a double-file restart with ten to go — but it's not going to come down to a ten-lap shootout on whose tires can last.
“I told Stu Grant (Goodyear's general manager of global race tyres) earlier they've actually made it too good. It's that good. I can promise all the fans out there that, if they want to come to the Brickyard and see a great race and be confident that the tires are not going to be an issue, trust me. I hope that's enough for them. But they've got this solved, for sure.”
The smiles on the faces of Grant and Greg Stucker, Goodyear's director of race tyre sales, were welcome confirmation of Gordon's guarantee. Since last year's Allstate 400, where tyres were worn to the cords after five laps of hard racing, Goodyear has conducted seven tests at Indy involving 31 drivers and covering 13,000 miles.
The key to preserving tyres at the Brickyard lies in “rubbering in” the racetrack, a process in which tread debris from the tyres adheres to the racing surface as the cars run on the track, thereby improving grip and diminishing wear. In 2008, tyres spewed a fine powder on the abrasive, diamond-ground asphalt, and the speedway never rubbered in.
Tuesday provided a dramatic contrast with one look at the racing groove, which was black with rubber. Kasey Kahne used the word “sticky” to describe the feel of the new tire compound.
The breakthrough came before a four-driver tyre test in early June. Goodyear had sections of its test track in Akron, Ohio, diamond-ground by the same company that had applied the process to the Brickyard in 2005 and supplemented the seven tests at the Brickyard with its own research. A reformulation of the compound produced tyres that now shed debris in larger “marbles” as opposed to fine tire dust.