Goodyear Returns To DIS For 50th Running Of The Daytona 500 Tire Testing
Goodyear returned on Tuesday to Daytona International Speedway for tire testing with NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow in preparation for the historic 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17.
Rain slowed Goodyear's two-day test last week at DIS. Goodyear, testing different tire compounds and structures for the 50th running of the Daytona 500, only got on the track for an afternoon session on the first day.
On Tuesday, four drivers participated in the test: David Stremme in Dodge, Mark Green in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, Hendrick Motorsports’ Casey Mears in a Chevrolet and a Dodge with Kyle Petty.
The Car of Tomorrow, a five-year project by NASCAR’s Research and Development Center, is designed to be safer, more competitive and cheaper for the race teams.
NASCAR’s next generation race car made its debut in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series earlier this year and was scheduled to be used in 16 races.
It will be utilized on a full-time basis in 2008 and will make its debut at DIS in the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17.
"Goodyear is just trying to get some good data and get some good information so they now what to come back with," Mears said during the lunch break. "So far, things are going pretty well. The cars are pretty well balanced. They are not real difficult to drive. For the most part, it’s very hard to tell in a two-car draft. It’s a totally different world when once you get 40 cars out there.
“The tires we’re putting on are just a little bit different, nothing real excessive or totally different than what we had in the past. They just want to get laps and good information and see what kind of heat these cars put in the tires as opposed to our old cars."
Mears said one difference with the Car of Tomorrow is how it feels going over the bumps on the legendary 2.5-mile tri-oval.
“The cars physically feel a lot different as you go around the track just because we’re dealing with a bump stop now where before we were always on a big spring,” Mears said. “The way the big spring goes through the bumps as opposed to the bump stop, the feedback you get through the wheel and through the car is a little bit harsher.”
Mears, who picked up his first NEXTEL Cup Series win earlier this year but didn’t qualify for the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, is already thinking about next season.
He is excited about his chances in the season-opening Daytona 500 given the recent success Hendrick Motorsports has experienced at “The World Center of Racing.”
His Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson won the 2005 and 2006 editions of “The Great American Race” respectively and Mears was in contention in the closing laps of the 2007 Daytona 500.
“We’ve been really strong,” Mears said. “The (Daytona 500) early in the year, we struggled a little bit with the balance but towards the end of the race, it looked like we were going to have a very good finish but then we had that
wreck towards the front. I feel real strong and excited about coming back with Hendrick Motorsports. They always figured out how to make their cars fast and we’ve made a lot of progress on this team.”
Mears also knows that winning the 50th running of the Daytona 500 will be a coveted title among drivers.
“Daytona is always a big deal and to be the 50th, it’s going to be huge,” Mears said. “The sport has obviously been around a long time and that’s a huge mile marker and a lot of guys would like to have that under our belt.”
NASCAR tickets for the 50th running of the Daytona 500 and other DIRECTV Speedweeks 2008 events are available online at http://www.racetickets.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.