BRISTOL, Tenn. – Goodyear is going back to Darlington Raceway for another test on the newly paved surface, and once again a Toyota won’t be involved.
Greg Biffle (Ford), Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet) and Ryan Newman (Dodge) will all return to Darlington in two weeks to help Goodyear find a suitable tire for when the series races there in May. Speeds inched toward 200 mph during the two-day test earlier this week, and Goodyear must find a tire capable of withstanding the speeds.
Toyota officials were irked they were the only manufacturer not included in the initial test, and they grew angrier when they learned of the second session.
But Goodyear officials said the participants are on a rotation, one manufacturer is always left out of the testing and having four teams at a session is overkill for the engineers.
“We really don’t need four cars to get the work done that we need to get done,” said Greg Stucker, director of race tire sales. “We’re going to go to Indianapolis in a few weeks, there will be a Toyota there and there won’t be a Ford there. That’s the way that it plays out. We’re going to try to spread the work out among the teams that give us the best results.”
Brian Vickers is expected to represent Toyota in Indianapolis. But inclusion there did little to satisfy the Toyota camp, which feels the other three makes will be ahead of its teams because of data it gathers during the test.
And, because the surface has been repaved, the other teams have a baseline for setups that Toyota will not have when it arrives in Darlington for the race.
Toyota officials declined to comment on the exclusion.
But Robin Pemberton, vice president of NASCAR’s competition, said Toyota does not have a legitimate gripe and will catch up once practice begins at Darlington.
“The next time that goes around, Dodge is going to miss a test. And the next time Ford is going to miss one,” Pemberton said. “It’s less important for Darlington because we’re getting extra practice. That takes some of the sting out of it.”