As teams head into this Sunday’s elimination race at Phoenix International Raceway, 7 drivers will fight for the 3 remaining spots to battle Jeff Gordon for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. To earn this right, and continue their championship hopes, drivers will need to conquer the one-mile oval—and as always, Goodyear tires play a crucial role.
While all tracks on the NASCAR schedule have unique qualities, Phoenix has a number of differences that set it apart from the rest. Phoenix boasts an untraditional track shape referred to as a “dogleg” oval. This asymmetrical design differs from many of the other oval tracks that drivers face throughout the year, as the track incorporates a kink in the backstretch that adds another turn into the equation.
Additionally, the turns are very different from corner to corner. One reason for this is the amount of banking built into the track. In turns 1 and 2, the track is banked at 11 degrees. But in turns 3 and 4, NASCAR drivers will encounter a flatter surface with only 9 degree banking. This variation in banking continues on the straights, with 3 degree banking in the front stretch and 9 degree banking in the backstretch.
In many ways these differences can make Phoenix feel like two different race tracks, which is a challenge for NASCAR teams. In negotiating any turn, drivers must enter the corner with stability, rotate the car and quickly accelerate out for a fast lap time. But because of the banking differences, the optimal car setup for turns 1 and 2 likely differs from the optimal setup for turns 3 and 4. This means drivers and their crew chiefs need to make a choice on where they’ll want to carry the most speed.
It’s also a challenge for Goodyear’s engineers. Due to the alternating banking and dynamics of the turns, Goodyear must develop a tire combination that offers superior performance across all variables. This was proved out successfully during the spring race in March.
“This weekend, we’ll be using the same tire package that we brought to Phoenix for the spring race earlier this year,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Using the same combination of Goodyear Eagle race tires will give teams a good starting point for their setups, as they’re familiar with how their cars respond to this tire combination.”
Goodyear engineers rely heavily on performance data from previous races and tests when selecting the appropriate Eagle race tires for each track. Feedback from crew chiefs and drivers is also critical, as it provides additional insight to assist engineers in making their selection.
Heading into the race weekend at Phoenix, teams should welcome the consistency of Goodyear’s tire package—a familiar factor in their race strategy equation as they race for the right to battle for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship.