What happens next?
For all of the talk about the tires Goodyear supplied last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, what matters now is what comes of it.
That’s why Tony Stewart fired his salvos about the tires following the Kobalt Tools 500. Nothing he said was going to fix what happened last weekend. What he’s trying to do is have an influence on whether it happens again or not. That’s all he can do now.
Texas Motor Speedway officials put out a press release Tuesday “announcing” that Goodyear plans to bring the same tire combination used there last year to its race next month. More to the point, the statement pointed out that the same tires used at Atlanta WON’T be used at Texas.
Goodyear has to love that.
Actually, that is part of the problem. Goodyear doesn’t like criticism, not even a little bit.
I’ve been covering NASCAR for more than 11 seasons now and I am still waiting for somebody who works for Goodyear to tell me: “You know what, we think the tire that blew out on the Such-and-Such car was just a bad tire. You have that from time to time. We hate it happened.”
No, there was always debris on the track and the tire got “cut,” or the brakes were too hot and the bead melted, or the team was too aggressive with camber or tire pressure.
All of those things DO happen, and Goodyear shouldn’t be blamed for every tire that goes down. But every once in while, it is Goodyear’s fault.
It’s always going to be that way. Nobody is perfect and nobody expects Goodyear to be. What I expect Goodyear to be is better, better today than it was yesterday and better tomorrow than it is today. That needs to be the goal.
Toward that end, Stewart is exactly right when he says Goodyear needs to have a test team that goes to tracks where NASCAR’s top series are going to race and runs lap after lap after lap trying to learn how to make the tires safer and more competitive.
But the company also needs to keep having tire tests with current, active teams on a regular, rotating basis to get those teams’ input in making tires better. It’s a two-part process. Goodyear’s own tests would get them closer to having the right combinations for teams to help hone even further in their outings.
The defense of what happened last week is that Goodyear didn’t want tires blowing out and creating a dangerous situation for the drivers. That, of course, is the proper course. But Goodyear can’t get a pass for going all the way to the “safe” end of the scale.
As Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Sunday evening, there has to be a middle ground somewhere between too soft to live and too hard to race. Goodyear’s job is to find that balance, as difficult as that might be to do. If you’re or two notches toward the “safe” side, that’s better than being one or two notches off the other way. But slamming the design all the way to the conservative end of the scale isn’t doing the job right. It’s covering your corporate backside.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
What happens next?