Thursday, March 13, 2008

So,What's up with the Tires?

As pretty much anyone knows who watches Nascar racing, Tony Stewart has been very vocal over the last couple of weeks about his extreme displeasure with the tires on his race car. He said that the tires on his car last Sunday at Atlanta were the worst in his career. That's saying something. Tony has driven pretty much every kind of race car there is, and has won doing it. When Tony's upset with the tires, Nascar and Goodyear should listen.

Tony wasn't the only one upset with the tires. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon also expressed their disappointment in the tires. Goodyear seemed not to be impressed.

Goodyear's answer to the accusations made by the various drivers, was, basically, "So What? We did the best we could!"

Strangely enough, I actually feel for Goodyear. They are caught between a rock, and a, well, hard tire. Tires are alway a concern for the Nascar teams, and there is a very important reason why.

The racing tires provide a relatively tiny 4 patches of contact between the hugely expensive race cars and the surface of the race track. A team that builds a race car can make an engine that produces enormous amounts of horse power and torque, but none of that matters if the car is sliding all over the track. You can have the best engine in the field, but you won't win a race if you can't put all that horse power and torque to use where it matters. If you can't make the wheels spin faster, and put your car ahead of the other guy, none of that great technology under the hood or anywhere else on the car really matters. It's all about where the rubber meets the pavement.

One of the problems that Stewart and others had was supposedly Goodyear brought a different tire to the track than the tire the teams tested with. There seems to be some confusion on this issue. If, indeed, Goodyear did bring a different tire than the teams tested, then the drivers have every right to be extremely upset. Their cars were built around those tires, and then they have to put on something totally different? If so, bad show, Goodyear. I've read stories that told it both ways, so I really don't know the true story.

Would it be better to let the teams find their own tires to race with? That has been tried before. Back in the early 1990's Hoosier and Goodyear had a bit of a war. Some teams took one tire, and other teams took others. The final straw that ended the war was when Neil Bonnett crashed in turn 4 practicing for the Daytona 500 in 1994. Bonnett was running Hoosier tires. Most folks blame the tires for the crash. In truth, we'll probably never know. All we know for sure is that Neil Bonnett lost his life in that accident.

In truth, I don't want to see another tire war. I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if the teams researched and bought their own tires to run in the races though. I'm a firm believer in capitalism and the free market anyway. I say let the tire makers compete for the teams' business. It would be cheaper, and eventually much safer in the long run. The present dictatorship that Nascar and Goodyear holds right now seems rather ridiculous anyway, since basically the cars are now all the same. Give the teams some creativity and let them use whatever tires they want to. Let Goodyear, Hoosier, Firestone, and what ever tire company get into the business of making racing tires. I bet a lot of innovations will be found, and though I sincerely hope that Neil Bonnett didn't lose his life testing inferior tires, I feel that competition is always a good thing in racing, and in business.

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