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Heading into the final 10-race chase for the title, NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion Jimmy Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports made gambles on and off the track to find increased performance.
One bet was made on a new ultra-high-tech Goodyear Gatorback automotive camshaft timing belt that contains carbon fiber found in advanced composites.
Carbon fiber – strong and flexible, weighing much less than steel of similar strength – is added to heat- and oil-resistant rubber compounds for use in the belt's tooth and body construction, so both are stronger.
Earlier this year, Goodyear introduced its Goodyear Eagle tire, featuring ResponsEdge Technology with carbon fiber.
Mike Gregg, Goodyear Engineered Products’ chief belt engineer, said it's unusual to introduce a product upgrade late in the season, but “engine performance demands increased during the season, and we didn't want to wait until the off-season to make changes.”
Jim Wall, director of engine engineering for Hendrick Motorsports, contacted Gregg, looking for a timing belt that would tolerate a 25 percent increase in horsepower.
According to Jeff Andrews, engine program director for Hendrick Motorsports, "It was determined that a jump of that magnitude would increase the demand on the belt by 50 percent."
Andrew said the improved Gatorback timing belt with carbon fiber allows engines to run more efficiently, handles increased loads and higher temperatures better, and provides precise timing in a very harsh environment.
"Goodyear came through for us," he said. "They designed, developed, tested and delivered the latest Gatorback belt in just seven weeks, making it available to all race teams, as we headed into the 10-race Chase to the Championship."
Before the season ended, drivers on the Hendrick team using the new Gatorback belt included Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers and Terry Labonte. Other race teams also tested and used the belt.
"We were ecstatic about the belt's performance," said Wall. "The size and weight of our cam drive components remained the same, but their performance increased dramatically."
Gregg said the rapid product development process required to keep up with NASCAR race teams helps drive Goodyear's cutting-edge technology in the automotive aftermarket. For example, the same Gatorback Poly-V belts chosen by all NASCAR teams are available straight-off-the-shelf in major auto part stores and auto service centers.
According to Gregg, when conventional timing belts engage under extreme load with sprockets, tooth deflection or deformation occurs. Deflection affects a camshaft's precise timing of opening and closing air valves in sync with its crankshaft and pistons.
Gatorback's new carbon-fiber compound and belt construction virtually eliminate tooth deflection.
Wall said, "Less tooth deflection means more horsepower, and Gatorback's strength and consistency provide accurate ignition timing, which we continuously strive to improve."
Gregg said the belt's tooth face is made from nylon, with a patented polymer alloy coating that reduces friction and wear and withstands temperatures of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, the belt's cord is made using high-strength glass with finer, stronger filaments than that found in most timing belts."Goodyear Engineered Products is the exclusive NASCAR Performance licensee of automotive aftermarket belts and hose. For more information, visit www.goodyearbeltsandhose.com.