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Goodyear hasn’t talked with NASCAR about rules changes in Chase for the Sprint Cup

NASCAR Testing - Charlotte Motor Speedway

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 11: Goodyear Eagle tires sit in the garage during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test at Charlotte Motor Speedway on March 11, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)

NASCAR via Getty Images

LOUDON, N.H. – A Goodyear official said there hasn’t been discussions yet with NASCAR about using a lower-downforce package in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Greg Stucker, the director of race tire sales for the tire supplier, said Goodyear would need to know within the next week if NASCAR wanted to use a softer tire to match a lower-downforce package if it were implemented for the Sept. 20 race at Chicagoland Speedway that will open the Chase.

“I think we’d have to sit down and look at it pretty hard and see what our options would be,” Stucker said when asked what might happen if NASCAR wanted to use a lower-downforce version. “We haven’t had that serious conversation yet because that really hasn’t been proposed to us.”

It’s possible that Goodyear could bring the tire it already confirmed for Chicagoland race with the current rules package during a test this week.

Last Saturday’s race at Kentucky Speedway marked the debut of the lower-downforce approach, but there wasn’t time to build a tire intended to match the package. It seemed to matter little as green-flag passes spiked by 132 percent.

Some drivers have lobbied for a softer tire with lower downforce so they can enjoy more comfort, grip and stability in making passes. But there seemed no problems with the durability of the “unmatched” tire at Kentucky.

“If you look at how Kentucky went and the level of grip vs. the level of downforce, you could extrapolate to say that Chicagoland would probably be similar,” Stucker said. “I think we’d probably want to go back and confirm that and look at that briefly.”

The lower-downforce package will be used again Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500. Goodyear is building a softer tire for that race after being able to test with the new rules last month. That compound produced more grip and slightly faster lap times that virtually matched the speeds produced with the current downforce rules.

The Darlington change was made with about 10 weeks of lead time. Stucker said Goodyear prefers to have about three months to manufacture the more than 1,000 tires that are needed for a Sprint Cup weekend.

“Obviously we’ve pulled the trigger on a few (races) a little sooner,” he said. “We can adjust with that. I’m talking about the ideal world, you just like to plan accordingly. We always like to factor in about 90 days, but things are moving kind of quickly here. We’re trying to be as flexible as we can. We’re trying to put the plan on notice there could be changes, and we need to react as we can.”

Stucker confirmed that Goodyear tested a softer tire with the lower-downforce package at Chicagoland but encountered blistering problems with the right side after 20 laps.

“We simply were a little too soft, a little too hung out,” Stucker said. “That’s not going to be the package that’ll work for Chicago in that configuration.”

Stucker said Goodyear wouldn’t built two sets of tires – one for the current rules and one for lower downforce – to extend the deadline for choosing between them.

“I think everyone understands by the nature of how much product we have to produce, and the time it takes to produce them, we’re not as flexible as everyone else is,” he said. “I think everybody recognizes that. We’re trying to move things around and be as flexible as we can. So, we’ll react as we need to. I think everyone would like to have those data points.

“I think we have Kentucky, where we had a minor grip improvement, but in everybody’s eyes, maybe that wasn’t ideal from a grip perspective. But maybe it was. Now we go to Darlington and add that grip back. We’ll have two really good data points with that configuration.”