The six-time most popular Sprint Cup Series driver was happy on Friday after qualifying. Not only because he qualified second for his best starting position of the season so far, but because Goodyear is set to begin testing a new tire concept this week at Richmond International Raceway.
The proposed tire will be consist of a 17-inch wheel versus the current 15-inch wheel that is used in the series today. Although specifics besides the wheel measurement are not yet known, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is happy with Goodyear, the official tire supplier of NASCAR, for begin retroactive.
"I'm excited that Goodyear is trying to look for new opportunities for the teams and the drivers," Earnhardt Jr. said on Friday after his qualifying lap. "Hopefully they'll have success in developing the new tire. A taller, wider tire could do a significant amount of things to the handling and the characteristics as to how the car feels and drives. But obviously if the tire is wider, we'll have a much more larger contact patch and probably pick up quite a bit of corner speed."
However, NASCAR vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, told drivers and reporters not to get too antsy as their is not current time table of when the new tire could hit the track, if it ever does.
"Both Goodyear and NASCAR work on research and development programs all the time, and that's what we have here," Pemberton said. "In fact, one of the goals of this test is to further enhance the reliability and performance of the current 15-inch tire that we use today. There is absolutely no timetable whatsoever in regards to the possibility of having a new tire."
In order for NASCAR to use the 17-inch tire, the "Car of Tomorrow" will have to have it's existing wheel-base of 110-inches modified. Goodyear will use Matt Kenseth and Travis Kvapil to test the new tire using a modified Roush Fenway Racing COT.
Goodyear will hold a two-day tire test this week at Richmond International Raceway. On Tuesday, Goodyear will test the regular 15-inch tire with Wednesday being the first official on-track test for the new 17-inch tire concept.
"First and foremost, this is a 'normal' tire test for us," Greg Stucker, Goodyear's director of race tire sales, said. "We're going to Richmond to work on our short track set-up, looking for some things we might want to evaluate further before next season.
"The second part of the Richmond test is very preliminary and is our first opportunity to get the larger size tire on the track. We've been very happy with the lab work on the larger tire and the modeling results that we've seen, so the next logical step is to get this tire on the ground."
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