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New tires bear watching this weekend at Kansas

Oct 4, 2013, 10:00 PM EDT

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On Thursday at Kansas Speedway, Sprint Cup teams got to test Goodyear’s second version of its “zone tread” tires that debuted back on Labor Day weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The session went off without any problems, but one driver was notable in his disdain for the new tires – Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Matt Kenseth, who won at Kansas back in the spring and holds an eight-point advantage over Jimmie Johnson going into Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400.

“I would have rather left everything alone for us, especially after today,” Kenseth said on Thursday. “Today was a struggle. I was glad we got the extra practice and of course tomorrow is a new day and we’ve got a lot of stuff to look at it, but today was kind of a struggle.

“Whenever anything is working good for you, you kind of like to leave everything the same. But, yeah, when you come back, it’s the same for everybody and you’ve just got to figure it out.”

Kenseth wound up qualifying a respectable seventh this afternoon for Sunday’s main event, but still felt that he and his team hadn’t, in his words, “made a lot of progress” following the Thursday tire test.

He and the rest of the Cup drivers will get two more practice sessions tomorrow at Kansas to continue working on their cars, but the fact that Kenseth seems to be having difficulty with the zone tires could mean an opportunity this weekend for Johnson, Kyle Busch (third in standings, 12 points behind Kenseth) and the rest of his rivals.

They’ll all take it, considering how dominant Kenseth has been on these intermediate tracks this season; four of his seven wins in 2013 have come on 1.5-mile ovals such as Kansas.

It’ll be interesting to see if his team can find the proper adjustments to better deal with these tires. Because if they can’t, a new Chase leader could emerge by Sunday night.

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