Sunday, March 16, 2008

To Err on the Side of Safety

"To err is human, to forgive, divine." - Alexander Pope.

If there is one new catch phrase in Nascar this week, it is the "Goodyear decided to err on the side of safety." I've heard this phrase about a dozen times at least since Friday, and I imagine we'll hear it a few more times at least today. This phrase has been used in conjunction with Goodyear's decision to bring the tire that they brought to Atlanta.

As has been mentioned, ad nauseum, Tony Stewart led the charge of criticism against Goodyear for last week's choice of tire. The tires had no grip, and according to Jeff Gordon, there was not one single lap he drove where the car felt comfortable. It was truly white knuckles driving all day, according to Jeff.

Racing is supposed to be exciting, not just for the fans, but for the drivers as well, isn't it? Well, there's exciting, and then there's exciting and equally frustrating.

As long as race cars have run around tracks, tires have been a major consideration. Some tires are more suited to a particular track than others. Since the dawn of racing, tires have blown out, lost grip, simply lost air, or just completely exploded. That is always an issue with any tire, whether on a race car or not.

It was just about unanimous among the talking heads this week: The tires that had no grip whatsoever made the drivers safer. I have to admit, I'm not sure I'm buying this theory. First of all, sliding around the track with very little control just plain sounds dangerous to me. Drivers were hitting the walls, wrecking cars. Many of the drivers complained that the tires were so hard, they felt very much like they were driving on ice. That's supposed to be safe?

Softer tires with more grip would have allowed the drivers to at least control the sliding, and give them at least an illusion of being in control. Tires with more grip would have worn out faster, but very few drivers get to stock car racing's most elite series without being able to tell when his tires are about to go away. Accidents do happen, and sometimes a tire blows without much warning, such as what happens when a tire runs over an errant piece of metal or other debris on the track. The result is usually a spin, and sometimes a crash into a wall or another car.

On these 'safe' tires, much the same thing was happening. Drivers simply couldn't control the cars going into the corners at Atlanta. Cars got wrecked. The end result comes out the same: Cars got wrecked.

To err on the side of safety is surely a noble goal, but I think many of the drivers would rather have a tire that wears out than one that's just about impossible to race with. I'm just not seeing where skating around on the automotive equivalent of ice skates is safer than just giving them tires that actually gripped the track a little better. Wrecks are going to happen in racing. That's just a fact. Why put the race in the tire maker's hands instead of the race driver's?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave comments. All I ask is that you keep it clean here.