KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The images vary drastically, one dominated by red and broken up with the occasional patch of blue and green while the other features large bursts of yellow rising up out of the sea of reddish orange, blue and green.
In Goodyear's world, a little bit of an image can tell a lot.
With tire wear a crucial component on the race track, and a new car that has produced much faster speeds throughout the year, the tire supplier has worked hard to stay on top of its game. Digital mapping, which produced the images, is one more tool in the toolbox that is helping Goodyear determine tire selection as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves from tracks that vary not only in size, but in the condition of the racing surface as well.
"We actually started (digital mapping) back in 2008 with Indianapolis,"
Greg Stucker, director of race tire sales for Goodyear, said Friday at
Kansas Speedway. "I won't say that we've done every race track, but
we've done a great number of them. Not only can we see what a particular
track surface looks like, we can also compare it to other tracks. By
looking at the surface itself, versus another one, and knowing what
we've run at the two, then obviously it helps us make decisions on tires
Stucker said the process also helps the company monitor changes in the surface over time by comparing images year after year.
"This place was repaved last year," he said of Kansas Speedway. "What's it going to look like in two years as it ages and wears?"
"I won't say we get to every track every year, but at least every couple of years and see how they change. We certainly have seen that with the new types of asphalt there doesn't seem to be quite as much change. This is a way to gauge that."
While Kansas was repaved just a year ago, Atlanta hasn't seen new asphalt put down in more than a decade and a half. Thus the drastic difference in appearances when viewed through the digital mapping process.
"A lot of the filler between the aggregate has worn away (at Atlanta)," Stucker said. "And that's what happens with asphalt over time. That simply hasn't happened here."
A number of things contribute to tire wear, from the abrasiveness of the racing surface to the compounds used in tire construction. Individual set-ups of the cars and driving styles are also contributing factors.
"Our goal for every race track is to be able to run a full fuel stop successfully (and) provide as much grip as we can under green," Stucker said. " ? We don't try to say we want to wear 50 percent, 25 percent, 60 percent. We simply want to make sure we give them enough where the tire wears slowly enough ? to complete that full fuel stop.
"And that's going to vary depending on the surface itself and how abrasive the surface is going to be."
For Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN), Goodyear is providing tires produced using zone tread technology, a process that combines two different compounds across the tire's surface: a harder inside shoulder and softer outside. Zone tread tires were used for the first time last month at Atlanta.
Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards has seen the digital mapping images from Atlanta and Kansas, and called the graphics "the neatest thing."
"The part that is interesting to me is how they map the race track and how much different the surfaces are," he said.
"It's pretty neat for Goodyear to be able to understand all of that and work towards the best tire they can. That's good for everybody."
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