2011 at earliest for bigger tires

Updated: March 20, 2009, 2:03 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Implementation of a bigger tire in NASCAR's Sprint Cup series probably will not happen until at least 2011, according to a report Thursday in the Virginian-Pilot.

Greg Stucker, director of race tire sales for Goodyear, said the new tire is at least two years away from fruition. Goodyear is in the process of designing a taller and wider tire that should improve handling on the new car, but it's a long and complicated process.

Goodyear officials originally hoped the bigger tire might be ready by next season. Now they say that timetable is too soon.

"We feel like we've still got some work to do," Stucker told the Virginian-Pilot. "We're certainly seeing some performance advantages, which was one of the goals. There are a few things we're not comfortable with yet as far as the overall footprint shape, the way the tire interacts.

"We think we've got some thing to improve before we put it on the race track. I'd say there's an outside chance we could be on a race track by the end of this year [for testing] but there are still a lot of things that have to happen before you put it in the race. We're a couple of years out before we do that. It's going to be some fairly significant changes we think."

The question is, does NASCAR even want it?

A top NASCAR official told ESPN.com's David Newton the governing body never asked Goodyear to develop a wider tire. And while the official did say there have been meetings and discussions about progress on the tire, its introduction is far from certain.

The concerns are two-fold. One is cost -- the body would have to be redesigned to accommodate a wider tire. Then, there are the potential problems created by altering the body.

"We've got enough problems without creating more," the official said.

NASCAR likes the progress Goodyear is making with the current tire, specifically the Las Vegas compound that apparently has solved many of the handling problems on 1½-mile tracks that have been the most concern.

"If we're getting close with that, why should we change?" the official asked.

The design of the new tire is two inches taller (17 inches compared to 15 now) and 1.5 inches wider.

It's possible the wheel well area on the car will need changes to accommodate the bigger tire. The larger size should increase stability in the turns for the new car and decrease wear.

But for now, it is what it is. The smaller tire is the only option, although the compounds will change and Goodyear will continue to conduct additional tire tests to try to make improvements.

The tire used for the race at Las Vegas, which was praised by many drivers, was tested this week at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Drivers again were pleased with its performance, so that tire probably will be used for the Coca-Cola 600 in May.

Goodyear also plans another test at Indianapolis, hoping to avoid last year's debacle in the Allstate 400 when the tires were wearing to the cords after 10 laps.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN.com's David Newton was included.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter