While Goodyear is celebrating the end of the season in Homestead, pronouncing it a ‘good year’, they are already manufacturing tires for the New Year and preparing for new season testing.
“I’m pleased that we’re completing another good year from a tire standpoint,” Stu Grant, Goodyear’s General Manager of Global Race Tires, said. “We’ve had a great engineering operation that designs these tires that stays on top of the changing rules that we have to deal with. Our engineers stay on top of all the things that these crew chiefs throw at us and at the car and tires. They do a good job of staying out front of all of that.”
“Of course, I’ll say that I also have to make a comment about our manufacturing facility. Our tires are handmade in Akron, Ohio. We make about 140,000 tires a year and they do a fantastic job making a top-quality tire.”
“We’re finishing a year that I’m really proud of,” Grant continued. “It’s been challenging, particularly because of the speeds. All you have to do is look at the record books and look at the track records set almost every single week. And even in the second half, they are faster than the first half.”
“Even though the NASCAR rules haven’t changed per se, they are getting better and better at it from a team standpoint,” Grant said. “They are just throwing a lot of speed and a lot of load at these tires. Like I said, our engineers continue to stay on top of that and out front of it. These guys are in the garage area to make sure they don’t abuse these tires. That’s why our engineers are at track. We have a half dozen guys at every race to take temperatures and talk to the people in the garage to make sure that if there is something at risk, we try to point it out to them on a tire temperature sheet or a pad.”
While Goodyear does not have a year-end wrap up per se, they do a major debrief after every race in addition to an annual meeting with their NASCAR partners.
“We have a lot of communication internally every week,” Grant said. “We try to analyze every race post-race. We actually have a weekly call on Tuesday with the NASCAR competition guys where we talk about what happened the last week and look ahead to the next week. We compare what we saw to what they saw. We also do a similar call with some of the race teams where the drivers are present.”
“So, you’re away from the Sunday emotion and you can get some good feedback on tires and handling. We’ll do that every week to try to stay with it rather than wait until the end of the year.”
“We do, however, have an annual meeting where all our guys go to the R&D Center in Charlotte with all the competition and R&D folks,” Grant continued. “We do that at the end of September. We’ll do a race-by-race analysis and share what we plan to change and what we don’t plan to change and ask NASCAR if they are OK with that.”
“It’s a discussion about what the perception is about tire set-up and if we need to change it or not. We need to make sure we’re together on that because about the end of October, we will start manufacturing tires for the next year. We’re making Daytona tires right now.”
“So, the timing of that meeting is important. To get all the materials together to the tire machine takes a couple of weeks to do all that. So, we need some lead time to do all that. We have to be all together on how we are going forward in 2015.”
Goodyear is also looking forward to testing next year, although there will be some changes based on NASCAR’s new testing ban.
“There has been a lot of discussion with NASCAR on that whole subject,” Grant said. “Where we are, and NASCAR was in total agreement, we don’t want to be distracted by fourteen other cars out there testing.”
“What’s really important is the data we gather. Think about the whole dynamic of that situation. If we’re testing at Homestead because we feel some reason to change this tire – we’re not going to test if we don’t feel there is a need to change it – we will have enough control tires to run our four test cars. What I don’t want is fourteen other cars running on a tire that I think 99.9% is not going to be the race tire as that has the possibility of giving me bad data. We don’t want that distraction.”
“NASCAR has taken the position that they totally don’t want that,” Grant continued. “What is important to NASCAR is that Goodyear provide the best tire that we can for our sport. They totally get that.”
“So, we will do our testing and when we’re done, then the fourteen or fifteen cars will come in and do their thing. That’s where I think it is right now. It’s not all ironed out but that’s where we are right now to totally divide those two efforts. We’ll do our testing and the teams will do their own testing on their own but maybe at the same location.”
The Goodyear execs have all gathered in Homestead for the final race of the season and to witness a champion crowned. But there really is no rest for the weary when it comes to racing tires.
“We’re excited to wind down the season. It goes fast,” Grant said. “It’s hard to believe that here we are sitting here at the last race. Then it is the banquet and the Las Vega s banquet. Then testing and back to work.”
“We’re looking forward to next year, with a little horsepower taken away and a little downforce off. That will give us a little room to maybe add some grip here and there,” Grant continued. “So, that’s kind of our strategy in 2015. We’re planning a lot of testing in 2015 and that will change things. We’ll just keep gathering data and we’ll open up the handling of the grip level of the set-up we provide.”
“I have a sign in my office that ‘There is no off season’ and there really is none.”