In the “zone”: New Goodyear tires making debut at Atlanta

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This weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR Sprint Cup squads are using a new right-side tire from supplier Goodyear that combines two separate compounds across its surface.

Dubbed “zone tread” technology by Goodyear, the tire utilizes a harder inside shoulder for heat resistance and a softer outside portion for added grip.

The inside compounds are the same as the one used at Michigan International Speedway this year, while the outside features a compound that has been used in recent events at Atlanta.

The “zone tread” tires were used as part of a 13-team test at AMS earlier this month and have been tested at other tracks. But Sunday night’s Cup race will provide the toughest task to date for the new tires – 500 miles on one of NASCAR’s fastest and most abrasive circuits.

“Atlanta is one of our biggest challenges from a tire perspective,” Goodyear general manager of worldwide racing Stu Grant told The Associated Press. “The abrasive surface causes extremely high wear, while the length and layout promote very high speeds.”

“What we’ve done here is take a specific rubber compound and limit the application to the inside shoulder, and then have a more tractive compound across the rest of the tread.”

Goodyear has utilized the “zone” concept on its passenger tires, but Sunday’s Advocare 500 will mark its first use in NASCAR competition.

When asked about his thoughts on the new tire, Stewart-Haas Racing driver Ryan Newman felt that Goodyear was using “a common sense approach.”

“Here at Atlanta, it’s the best worst-case scenario for that because it is the toughest track we have on tires,” he said on Friday. “The strength of that zone tread tire is the durability side of it. The biggest part of the durability side of what we do is the inside shoulder of the right front tire.

“I think, all that being said, I hope there are no issues. The reason they’re doing that is so there won’t be any issues because this new [Gen-6] car is definitely the most challenging we’ve had on tire durability.”

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.