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Brad Keselowski: New tire is key

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski says the new right-side tire Goodyear will unveil for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Atlanta is key to the future of the sport.

The new tire will feature a firmer compound on the inside shoulder to enhance durability. The outside two-thirds will provide a more tractive tread compound to increase grip.

A variation of the tire also will be used during the Chase at Kansas, with the ultimate goal being to develop it for use on every track. But it is particularly significant at 1½ -mile tracks such as Atlanta and Kansas, where high speeds result in excessive tire wear and limited traction.

"Unfortunately, it's been brought in as a necessity rather than an option," said Keselowski, one of many drivers to test the tire at Atlanta. "Last year's tire with the 'Gen 6' car was basically incompatible to the track. We had every type of issue you could have.

"That forced the Goodyear cycle to be expedited, which is never ideal. We're going to find out kind of by trial and fire at Atlanta how it's going to work."

Tests so far show it works.

"It's very, very important the tire succeeds, because it's the future of our sport," Keselowski said.

Goodyear has been working on the tire for about two years, but issues with wear and grip -- and a new car that is lighter, faster and creates more downforce -- have sped up the process.

"This car, as this year has evolved, they certainly are going faster and we're seeing a lot more challenges with this car -- without a doubt," Goodyear's Greg Stucker told ESPN.com. "We're definitely seeing higher heat. They're sealing off the front ends. We're hearing numbers of 250 degrees hotter in the engine compartment versus the old car. That heats up every component in there, and the tires feel that.

"So it's stressing the tires more than the old car did. This gives us the opportunity to start addressing that and making sure we have a package that matches up with it."

Stucker wouldn't go as far as to say the tire is critical to the future of the sport said it "has the potential to be pretty significant." Goodyear is using the new "zone tread" technology that it began using on its Assurance TripleTred passenger tire in 2004. That tire was designed for all weather, combining three distinct zones for wet, icy and dry conditions.

The right-side tire being used in Atlanta was designed to help control heat on the inner half of the tread, with a different tread to provide more grip.

"It's going to open the door for a lot of good opportunities and gives us some flexibility we didn't really have in the past," Stucker said. "We try to provide as much grip as we can at every track. At the same time, we know these guys push the envelope with every part of the car. We understand that.

"It tends to limit us on how much grip the different parts of the tire that are stressed the most" can have.

Keselowski believes the tire ultimately will create more of the side-by-side racing that fans and drivers want, although Stucker was a bit conservative on that prognosis.

"It's the solution to the lack of side-by-side racing in the sense of what Goodyear is able to provide," Keselowski said. "It's a really, really important weekend for our sport."