What a difference a year makes - not to mention 13,000 miles of tyre testing - as, based on Friday's two Sprint Cup practice sessions, chances for a repeat of last year's debacle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are slim and none - and trending quickly toward none.
In the first session, Sprint Cup cars ran as many as 27 laps on a set of tyres with significant tread left. If 27 sounds like a relatively small number, compare that with last year's opening practice, in which tyres were worn to the cords after five to ten laps.
In 2008, the situation didn't improve by race day but, on Friday, however, Goodyear officials could already point to encouraging signs. The 2.5-mile track already had begun to 'rubber in', with tyre debris adhering to the racing surface rather than grinding to a fine powder, as it did last year.
“So far, everything we've seen we're very happy with,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear's director of race tyre sales, “The track took rubber very, very quickly this afternoon and continued to do so. We got a nice dark groove out there. Tyre wear's been excellent. We've got guys that have had 27 laps on tyres and still look good, so [we're] projecting well in excess of a fuel stop right off the bat.”
Jeff Gordon, who guaranteed on 16 June that tyre problems were a dead issue after the last of seven tests, saw nothing to change his mind during Friday's practice.
“I know we had about 20 laps on a set of tyres, and we had so much left in them,” the four-time Brickyard winner said, “Like I said, you only have so much time [during practice], and you want to make adjustments, [but] we could have run all day on one set of tyres if we wanted to - the wear is that good.”
by Reid Spencer / Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service