Drivers praise Goodyear tires at Brickyard

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INDIANAPOLIS --- Jeff Gordon guarantees this year's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard will be a real race, not a seven-lap sprint to the finish line like last year.

After rain washed out most of Goodyear's final tire testing day at Indianapolis, the four-time Cup champion gave the manufacturer's new, softer tires an unwavering endorsement for one of NASCAR's biggest races.

"I ran this tire as hard as I possibly could, and this is a dead issue," he said Tuesday. "This race might come down to a lot of things -- fuel, pit strategy, a double-file restart -- but it is not going to come down to a 10-lap shootout on whose tires can last the longest."

Race organizers and Goodyear could not have hoped for a stronger statement from one of the series most recognizable drivers, nor could they have chosen a better time for Gordon to make it.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Joie Chitwood said ticket sales for the July 26 race are lagging from last year, even after cutting prices in February. The combination of a recession and concerns over a repeat of last year's tire debacle are at least partly to blame, he said.

Excessive tire wear forced race officials to throw competition cautions every 10 to 12 laps last July. The longest green flag run was 13 laps. The fiasco left drivers and fans upset, forced NASCAR to apologize and sent Goodyear into full redevelopment mode.

"It's night and day difference," former Cup champ Kurt Busch said. "The ability to make more than 10 laps has been refreshing. I'm amazed at how much better the tire feels. It doesn't have as much powder, and it feels sticky when they take it off the car."

"I feel Goodyear worked really hard through all these tests," said Kasey Kahne , a regular participant in the tire tests. "But until about two weeks ago, they didn't have a tire for this race. I'm confident now. We ran five laps on these tires and it rubbered in and was ready to go. Last year, it never rubbered in."

TRUCKS SERIES: Reigning NASCAR truck champion Johnny Benson was released from a Grand Rapids, Mich., hospital three days after being injured in a fiery crash. The 45-year-old suffered burns and broken ribs after his vehicle collided with another car, slammed into a wall and burst into flames Saturday.

FORMULA ONE: The governing body is sticking to plans for a voluntary $60 million budget cap to avoid a "financial arms race," despite threats from Ferrari and other teams to pull out unless the plans are scrapped.

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