New tire combination suits Jeff Gordon

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 01:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 1, 2013 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

AVONDALE, AZ – MARCH 01: Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 1, 2013 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

AVONDALE, Ariz.— Sprint Cup drivers face a lot of unknowns at Phoenix, not the least of which are the new Gen-6 cars and a new Goodyear tire featuring compound changes on both sides of the car designed to provide more grip.

As far as Jeff Gordon is concerned, the changes are positive.

“I was very pleased with everything I felt out there,” Gordon said. “I thought the tire and the track conditions were not as edgy and unpredictable as what we’ve seen in the past here, which tells me that the pavement is aging, which is a good thing.

“The tire…luckily Goodyear came and did some testing here and found that now we’ve lost a little grip in this track, and now we can soften this tire up and maybe we can have some falloff over a longer run. So, everything I think has come together pretty nicely.”

Goodyear based its tire choice on a test last Oct. 23-24, with seven Cup drivers participating: Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards.

SHORT STROKES

Kurt Busch spent Saturday’s first practice session getting his backup No. 78 Chevrolet SS up to speed. Busch wrecked his primary car on his second qualifying lap Friday, when a coolant systems part failure spewed water beneath his tires, causing Busch to lose control of the car and hit the outside wall. By the end of the first practice session, Busch had the backup car up to 17th on the speed chart, but he’ll have to start from the rear Sunday because of the equipment change. …

After winning the pole on Friday, Mark Martin led both Cup practice sessions on Saturday. A victory in Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 would make Martin, 54, the oldest driver ever to win a race at NASCAR’s top level. …

Danica Patrick spent both Saturday practices searching in vain for speed in her No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy. The Daytona 500 pole winner, who qualified 40th Friday at Phoenix, was 35th fastest in morning practice and 34th in Happy Hour.

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