For NASCAR’s top 16 drivers, the pressure of battling in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup adds another layer of stress to an already grueling race season. But they’re not the only ones subject to season-long wear and tear—NASCAR tracks are affected as well.
Chicagoland Speedway is a prime example. The track surface takes a beating from harsh weather conditions, which not only creates additional challenges for the drivers, but also for Goodyear engineers as the team works to determine which tires to bring to the race.
Unlike most of the other tracks in the Chase, Chicagoland Speedway is exposed to a variety of extreme weather conditions which impact the track surface. Year-after-year, the freeze-thaw process changes the character of the asphalt as the binding agent between the stones is lost over time.
If you live in a climate like this, you probably can relate. Freezing and thawing contributes to the heaving of asphalt on streets, causing cracks, erosion and even potholes. It’s a similar situation on the race track.
As the only part of the race car touching the track, Goodyear’s Eagle NASCAR tires must be ready to handle the stress of this changing surface. That’s why Goodyear actively monitors track conditions.
“In addition to gathering data each race weekend, we conduct tire tests at many tracks throughout the year and do countless hours of lab testing,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing.
Goodyear engineers analyzed tire performance from the Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in June, as well as the Sprint Cup Series race last fall, to determine if the rate of change in the track surface would have a significant impact on tire performance this week. Additionally, Goodyear and NASCAR conducted at-track testing with four teams (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Sam Hornish Jr., J.J. Yeley and Martin Truex Jr.) to confirm that the tire package for this weekend’s race would be appropriate for the conditions.
The result: Goodyear will bring the same tire combination to Chicago as it did in 2014—a package that will also be used at Texas Motor Speedway (Nov. 8) and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 22).
“We arrange the tracks in tire groupings, based on similar characteristics like length, banking, loads and track surface,” added Stucker. “Traditionally, Chicagoland, Texas and Homestead-Miami are three tracks that line up in one group and require a similar tire package that gives cars the grip they need under harsh racing conditions.”
With the almost infinite number of variables in NASCAR racing, this tire consistency is welcomed by many teams.
“Coming back with the same tire to multiple tracks, we have a grasp of what this tire wants.” said Todd Gordon, crew chief for Chase contender Joey Logano of Penske Racing. “As we push things to the limit we understand that tire better and learn the trends in durability and grip, and can fine tune our set-up to that tire. We need to operate at the limit, and to be successful in the Chase we need to operate at the edge and just not go over it.”
And that is the goal for all the teams involved in the race.
On Sunday, NASCAR drivers will be pushing their cars and Goodyear Eagle tires to perform in the grueling 400-mile battle at Chicagoland Speedway. Goodyear is ready for the battle, and confident we’re bringing the right tires to prevail through the first challenge of the Chase.