Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Where the rubber meets the road

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.


Uncle Dewey 88 said...

Despite Tony's rant, the last thing Nascar needs is another tire war. I have been a fan long enough to remember both attempts by Hoosier to compete with Goodyear. There was a lot of compromise of safety to get a new track record on pole day.

Like you say, this does not give Goodyear a pass on doing their job. That being to produce a safe, competitive tire that the teams can bolt on and get consistant performance.

In the end, thats what Tony wants too. He just has an emotional way of expressing his displeasure.

Monkeesfan said...

uncle dewey 88, I remember the 1988 and 1994 tire wars and the safety argument is grossly oversold. Safety wasn't compromised any more than it is now, and with the tire war came new revenue and engineering streams for more teams, and in was reflected in a dramatic increase in number of winning drivers and teams in both years.

Goodyear has never produced a consistently good tire. Hoosier had the right idea when it was able to produce tires that didn't have to be changed - to where some drivers ran up front in the Daytona 500 all day on just ten tires and Geoff Bodine was able to skip tire changes in several 1994 races and not lose speed.

Now there's more to these present tire problems than just the tire, namely the fundamental unsoundness of the COT.

Unknown said...

You've hit the nail on the head David. Goodyear needs to do a lot more testing than they do now and why they don't have their own testing team is beyond me. It's great that they get a few teams to test once in a while but they also need their own test team that they can take to the track when ever they want and test all kinds of different compounds and run all sorts of different scenarios. Right now their testing procedure isn't even adequate let alone exceptional.

Anonymous said...

Competition for Goodyear would be the cure for complacency and the "good enough" mindset that Goodyear surely has from time to time.

The only way I'd like to see another tire company in NASCAR though is if race teams were NOT allowed to sign contracts/agreements with tire companies that would obligate a team to use their tire.

NASCAR has aero, engine, and chassis specs that theoretically provide for a level playing field- meaning that all teams have the same opportunity to make their car as fast as any competitor's car may be. As for tires though, if a race team signed a contract with a particular tire company, obligating that team to use their tire for a given duration of time, and that tire company's product fell behind to the point that it was clearly inferior to the other tire company's product, then the playing field is no longer level. With teams not having the ability to adjust, tune, or alter a tire like they can with (within NASCAR specs) the aero, chassis, and engines of their race cars, any team that was obligated to bolt on inferior tires would be screwed.

Whether it's an Earnhardt, Gordon, Burton, Kahne, Stewart, or whoever fan, nobody wants to see his/her favorite driver trying to win a race that he most likely cannot win, simply because his team is obligated to use an inferior tire until a contract expires.

So if there were no contracts/agreements allowed, meaning a team could go from one tire to another on a week-to-week, track-to-track, season-to-season basis, as it saw fit to do, then I'd be all for more than just Goodyear providing tires to NASCAR race teams. Problem is though, I'm sure Goodyear writes NASCAR a 7 or 8 figure check annually to be NASCAR's sole tire supplier, and I can't imagine NASCAR giving that up, even if it is in the best interest of the sport.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I just can’t get past this whole safety issue. I agree, Goodyear dropped the ball this weekend, and the drivers more than anything can attest to that fact. But, bringing in competition will only worsen the problem as tire companies compete for creating a tire that will most satisfy the drivers - the one that will best help them win the race, specifically go faster. If you have a win on the line with all the points and money that go with that win, do you go with the faster, yet less safe tire? Or do you go with the slower, but safer tire? Hmmmmm... tough choice. Teams will always go with the tire/equipment/strategy that will give them the best chance to win. This is a situation where the sanctioning body needs to set a very rigid standard so that all teams are on the same playing field; anytime there is a safety issue the decision needs to be taken out of the hands of the teams. You can sit there and slam Goodyear as much as you want, but keep in mind that they have one of the toughest jobs out there... changing tracks, compensating for anticipated weather, and now a brand new, heavier car that has an entirely different aero package. Every team drops the ball and misses a setup every once in a while, Goodyear did so this weekend. I am not defending them as there is obviously room for improvement, but let’s not assume that changing vendors will solve the problem.

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Anonymous said...

monkiesfan - "uncle dewey 88, I remember the 1988 and 1994 tire wars and the safety argument is grossly oversold. Safety wasn't compromised any more than it is now,"

I'd suggest you query Bill Elliott about how the tire war and his subsequent injuries hurt his 1989 season. Or why Bobby Allisons flat at Pocono cost him not only the race, but his memory unitl this day and a few days spent at the time in a coma.

Or maybe why the 1988 Talladega DieHard 500 was Buddy Baker's last event after being forced to retire when a blood clot is discovered in his brain.

But that would require you to look at things objectively, and that's near impossible.

Anonymous said...

Marc, its all the fault of Biran France and the unqualified failure that the COT is... dont you know that???

Anonymous said...

nh_nascarfan - "Marc, its all the fault of Biran France and the unqualified failure that the COT is... dont you know that???"

Well, I am aware of that alternative universe but can't visit there any longer.

My visa was revoked for going off the reservation and actually reading and understanding facts as opposed to every crackpot theory that comes down the pike.

okla21fan said...

Mark Martin used to say that if there was another 'tire war', that drivers would be killed. Simply because the tire manufacturers would produce softer tires over safety, and the teams would run the softer tire because they would provide more grip. (at least for some laps).

When drivers complain that they want softer tires, then Goodyear does that, tires blow. Then Goodyear makes a harder compound and the drivers 'can't drive' it. David is right, somewhere there should be a happy middle ground.

Anonymous said...

Tony's rant reminds me a lot of how I had to handle our sons when they were growing up..If I politely asked them to mow the lawn, many times, it wouldn't get done. If I raised my voice however, they would jump up and git-er-done. Drivers have been politely complaining for a long time with no results. Perhaps it was time for a little emotion.

stricklinfan82 said...

It shouldn't be that difficult for Goodyear to bring a suitable tire to the track every week. All they have to do is make a tire that has grip and wears out in somewhere between 80 and 100 miles (the distance of a fuel run). If you really want to be extra safe then make a tire that lasts 125 miles.

As Junior said, there has to be a middle ground somewhere. All Goodyear has to do is make a tire safe enough to last a little longer than the distance of one fuel run. I agree that tires that have tremendous grip but wear out in 40 or 50 miles are a very bad thing. At the same time it is inexcusable for Goodyear to solve this problem by bringing tires with zero grip that won't wear out in 300 miles. Make a middle ground for crying out load. Make a tire that has grip, wears out, but will be durable enough the distance of one fuel run. The drivers have to pit for gas every 80 or so miles so they'll change the tires then.

I applaud Tony Stewart for finally loudly speaking out about a problem that is not new by any means. I think he finally just got fed up with his concerns falling on deaf ears and realized being this outspoken was the only way to get Goodyear's attention. Based on the fact that we've heard all kinds of Goodyear safety talk on shows like Sportscenter, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, and ESPNEWS, I think Tony definitely succeeded. Goodyear can't ignore this anymore.

I want to see side-by-side racing return. The Atlanta race was terrible and it was entirely because of the tires.

Do I personally know how to build a tire that lasts exactly 100 miles? Absolutely not. But these Goodyear engineers (that Michael Waltrip constantly praises as being geniuses that are able to do anything NASCAR asks them to do) certainly should be able to. Quit being lazy and using the no-grip, 300 mile tire every time the original tire you bring to testing isn't good enough and get to work on making tires suitable to race on!

I don't want to see a tire war again because I don't want to see drivers get hurt, but I do want to see the single tire company in NASCAR be competent enough to bring a grippy tire to the track that will wear out in 80-100 miles. I don't care if it's Goodyear, Hoosier, Firestone, Michelin, whoever. I just want one competent tire company, please!

Anonymous said...

Tony is frickin middle-age- addolescent! Wha, wha, wha, I finished 2nd and the tires were horrible... can you be anymore ridiculous? Really, your team finished 1 & 2 and the tires were just the worst huh? Go tell it on the mountain Tony or better yet, go tell it at the buffet table you cant push yourself away from.

Tony "Goldilocks" Stewart. This one is too hard, this one is too soft, awwww this one is just right! Just like a little girl!

Is his name tony or tina? It must have been a heavy flow day last Sunday for her highness...

Anonymous said...

I'm glad Tony blew his top and that Jr and Jeff backed him up - watching some of the drivers at Atlanta was stupid - it was like they were driving on ice. No side-by-side and borrrrrrrrrrrrring except when someone got out front. The bottom line is Good Year needs to put its money where it's mouth is and give the drivers better tires. You don't do that, you get fired.

Totally enjoyed your smart blog David. Keep their feet to the fire.

Anonymous said...


You're absolutely right that Goodyear went to the extreme safe side. Tony was sent to the hospital twice the week before because of Goodyear. He had a right to be upset. Tony sounded like Dale Sr. in speaking his mind.
The COT's are too much like IROC cars, give the teams the rights to proper set ups and springs....

I love your views into my favorite sport.

onelap said...

1.Race was boring.. IMHO
2.Tony,Jeff,Dale,and others can complain about ANYTHING on their car. Their driving it, NOT you or me.
3.Tire war may not be economical for the suppliers/manufacturers ( cost to produce verses total sales and ad benefits of sponsorship ).simply put it cost WAY to much for the benefits they receive.Maybe the way to go is to have and open bid/test for the different manufactures every 6 years. That would put several times the engineering energy into the tires every cycle.(the way to solving this problem is through engineering )
4.Increase the tire footprint 10%
5.Nascar needs to "define " in a scientific provable fashion what grip requirements it demands as a minimum.( it does for every other component on the car).
6.Test Test Test.

Monkeesfan said...

marc, those issues were not tire-war related because such problems are common, tire war or no tire war. Don't lecture me about objectivity because I use it far more than you have the capacity.

nh nascarfan, I went through the two Hoosier tire wars, and the whole safety argument is overblwon because safety was no worse than it was when Goodyear had a monopoly. Goodyear has had a monopoly for decades and all that's resulted is decades of inconsistent and downright bad tires. Bring in Firestone and Hoosier and make Goodyear have to fight them on the racetrack.

BTW, you and marc belittle the COT's role in tire issues, except reality doesn't support your cavalier refusal to see it. The car's lack of downforce has had an effect on setups and tires, and nowhere has it been positive.

okla21fan, does Mark Martin ever complain when drivers are killed during tire monopolies?

What is ultimately needed is a tire that doesn't have to be changed and keeps the cars stuck to the racetrack, and additional revenue and engineering streams for more raceteams. A Goodyear monopoly provides neither.

Anonymous said...


I think this quote of you says it all..."If you’re one 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." - David Poole.

All GYr does is cover it's ass. The sport is called "Racing." Safety is a part of it, but certainly risk is involved. If GYr can't put the racing back into a safe tire, then I'm sure there are others who can.

Anonymous said...

I think Dale Jarrett hit the nail on the head yesterday. You can not use the same tire on both the cup cars and the "Busch" cars. They are two differant animals now. Kind of like your street car, what works good on a sports car is absolutely useless on an SUV. Goodyear and NASCAR need to spend the money and design a tire that will work with this new car. Keep the bean counters out of the equasion.

Anonymous said...

The drivers have no say in what Nascar decides and Goodyear has a contract for 4 more years, but the general public and all Nascar fans can boycott Goodyear and buy other tires and products. Nascar fans out number most other sports fans and especially in loyalty. A Nascar fan for 50 years. Chevy lady in Georgia.

Monkeesfan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monkeesfan said...

Darn it - this didn't come out right the first time -

One of the most perceptive analysts of the sport right now is a blogger known as MD80891 - check his responses in the response section of this Reid Spencer analysis of the tire issue at Atlanta.

Anonymous said...

Monkeesfan, you continue to understate the issue of safety for the drivers and have absolutely no credible evidence to cover your statements. Your arguments are fundamentally flawed from the get go, and every driver knows it. Funny how, even with the current feelings towards Goodyear, none of the guys who strap themselves into a racecar and travel at 180 mph for your enjoyment want a tire war.

Settle this off the track, where a drivers life isn't at stake. I agree with what Kim said on every point, especially the part about rebidding the contract every 6 or so years.

Yes, the COT does indeed have bearing on this; any time you make a huge change to the car you are using - changing weights, frames, handling, downforce, etc, you can expect that the old tire data will no longer be of much use. Dale Jarrett is correct that a different design is needed for the new car, using old design on new equipment is a fundamental flaw.


Anonymous said...

Monkeesfan: 'One of the most perceptive analysts of the sport right now is a blogger known as MD80891 - check his responses in the response section of this Reid Spencer analysis of the tire issue at Atlanta.'

Oh, I get it... he sips from the same 'COT & Brian France are to blame for everything' kool aid as you do!

Monkeesfan said...

nh nascarfan, I'm understating the issue of driver safety because it's not as big as you think it is. History is the credible evidence that covers my statements because it is history that shows that tire wars are good for the sport.

"Drivers don't want a tire war." So what? They can't cite any superior safety with Goodyear's monopoly because history disproves that argument. There should be no rebidding - make them race each other on the track.

The COT has a bearing on this because it is a design that cannot work. "A different design is needed for the new car." Actually what is needed is to go back to the old car (long nose, flush airdam, chopped roofline), go back to a 7.5-inch spoiler and low airdam, and bolt on a roof rail for drag. A new car was never needed to begin with.

And before you rip MD80891, why don't you read some of his pieces first?

Anonymous said...

Good Lord David, you need to stop watching racin and get on a treadmill.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the media has made too much of the way Tony made his comments - and too little of the truth of what he said and the fact that 2 other past champions and 3 other top 5 finishers at Atlanta agreed with the substance of his position.

At some point tires that are unnecessarily hard also create safety risks - possibly not as much as a too soft tire. I have not seen any articles where drivers who wrecked at Atlanta were interviewed to see whether the hard tires caused the wreck.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Monkeesfan, the Kool Aid you drink is just too much to take. Safety is the number one priority, and if no credible member of NASCAR, specifically the drivers who would most be effected by a tire war, don't want one, why would you?

In reading the your drunken postings, you never make driver safety a priority, therefore you have no real credibility whatsoever.


Anonymous said...

The truth about the 1994 tire war in which two drivers (Neil Bonnett and Rodney Orr) lost their lives in tire failure related crashes and Ernie Irvan was seriously injured in a tire failure related crash:

Brett Bodine: ``I'm certainly glad it's over. Everybody is going to be out there on equal tires. It's just better to let the race teams decide who's going to win the race, not the tire companies.''

Steve Hmiel, Mark Martin's crew chief, after the 1994 war ended: ``Goodyear has come up with a good, safe tire. I think it will race real good with no concern over somebody getting hurt because of the tires. Last year, sometimes it felt like it got unsafe.''

Rick Mast, winner of the 1994 Brickyard 400, on the pullout of Hoosier after winning with that company (on Hoosiers): ``It tickles the dickens out of me. It's the best thing that could have happened. It put everybody in a bad spot. When tire companies are in competition, to go faster, your tire's gotta be softer, and softer tires are just not as safe. They're more apt to come apart.''

Jack Rousch: "We will wreck more cars because of this tire war, and people could get hurt because of it”

Junior Johnson: "The biggest thing I see it doing is raising the cost of racing. They're fighting a war and we're paying for it."

Two dead drivers, one critically injured, and a multitude of tire failures. You want to change Goodyear? Ok, but lets not settle THAT war on the track. There are actual real lives at stake.


Monkeesfan said...

nh nascarfan, driver safety is "not a priority" because it isn't being compromised anywhere. "If the drivers don't want a tire war, why would you?" Because is means more revenue and engineering streams for more teams and it also means tires that don't have to be changed, allowing drivers to run 500 mile races on far fewer tires than they use in the Goodyear monopoly. That is more important than driver reluctance for a tire war.

You cite driver deaths in tire competition years, but not in Goodyear monpoly years - oh that's right, because to do so discredits your opposition to tire competition. You're the one trying to rewrite history, Mark, so you're the one without credibility here.

Anonymous said...

Monkeesfan, can you cite one person within NASCAR - owner, crew chief, or driver, who wants a tire war? Can you cite one person within NASCAR who will dispute that tire failures at high speed were the cause of the 1994 tragedies?

You may not believe it did - and that is your right - but your belief isn’t necessarily fact. And who wants to run the risk of deaths or serious injuries in the name of your perceived increased revenue and engineering?

I am still amazed at your callous attitude about driver safety when it comes to tires and the new car.

Remember, they are the ones who place their lives at risk each lap of each weekend for your entertainment. Show some gratitude and start showing some concern for these guys.


Anonymous said...

I believe Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Dale, Jr., and others are saying that Goodyear should be able to build a safe tire that is also competitive without Goodyear's going overboard like the overly-hard tire they brought to Atlanta. It is experienced drivers that are saying Goodyear dropped the ball.

Anonymous said...

Richard, lost in all of this calling for a tire war by the truly insane is exactly that point.

Goodyear can - and must - do a better job, and if they cant/wont, then there are other companies more than willing to give it a shot.


Monkeesfan said...

nh nascarfan, I can cite the big picture to advocate a tire war. Tire competition means more teams get more revenue and engineering streasm and the result is more winners. You constantly exaggerate the danger level during tire wars and ignore that it was never any different from Goodyear monopoly seasons - the whole controversy over Vegas and Atlanta right now is proof that the Goodyear monopoly isn't any better than a tire war.

And I cannot remember anyone citing tire failure in the Bonnett and Orr crashes - those cars broke loose on a couple of unusually windy days; the accusation against Hoosier came later that week when they were accused of having tires that made the cars looser. They quit Speedweeks after the 125s not because of safety; my understanding is the tires made their cars handle so poorly they were unraceable (which isn't consistent with the whole "soft tire" mantra). By the Atlanta 500 a month later Hoosier was starting to get its act together.

You keep exaggerating the "increased risk" when it was not there before or later. The risk now is the same as it was in 1994 as far as tire reliability goes.

"Show some gratitude." I only show gratitude when someone earns it - when someone disingenuously whines about "safety" to advocate policies that wussify the sport, they deserve contempt.

The sport needs tire competition, because it needs tires that don't have to be changed and keeps the cars stuck to the racetrack, and it needs additional revenue and engineering streams to more teams for more winners; a Goodyear monopoly provides neither. They have shown they can't do it; make them have to race Firestone and Hoosier and thus be forced to get it right.

Anonymous said...

The wind? The wind is the best lame excuse you can come up with for two fatal accident? At least try to come up with something that at can make me ponder for more than a millisecond that you might have made a reasonable point. Yes, I know, anything but the tires, as that would rebut your inane thought process on this discussion.

Perhaps you should research this a bit more before you type; all 3 accidents were due to high speed tire failures. Additionally, Hoosier dropped out for economic reasons, NASCAR required that both companies bring enough tires for to supply each team with enough tires for each race, whether they chose to use them or not... as a result, both companies had to make hundreds more tires that would actually be needed, and Hoosier being so much smaller (I believe I heard they had only 18 full time employees), had no choice but to pull out. That does, of course, shoot holes in your 'added revenue stream' theory as well.

The tire war of 94 was a financial bust for both manufacturers, bear in mind that these companies are looking to be able to sell tires by being the 'official tire of NASCAR,' that alone is what makes a financial losing venture worth sticking around in NASCAR.


Monkeesfan said...

nh nascarfan, DO SOME ACTUAL RESEARCH for a change (you pompously lecture me about that at your blog; follow your own damned advice). I remember that Speedweeks quite vividly; it was unusually windy those two days (there were several driver interviews that commented on it at the time), and tire failures were not responsible because they didn't happen in the Bonnett and Orr crashes - "Orr lost control in the second turn" is how every story about his death read (and yes, I went back to re-read stories about those two wrecks); none ever cited tire failure. So you're wrong there.

"Hoosier dropped out for economic reasons." NASCAR priced them out; the revenue they brought to the sport was team-specific; they allowed more teams to test more and thus become better faster than Goodyear's monopoly has ever allowed.

You're 0-for-the-argument, Mark - there is no case against a tire war. Goodyear's monopoly has never been safer than a tire war. Period, end of discussion.

Anonymous said...

Look a little closer... cut tires were the cause of the loss of control. And of course they lost control, as most cars do when the cut a tire. In fact, when a car at high speed suddenly veers off course and hits a wall, its almost always a cut tire. Not that hard and easy enough to find if you actually look.

Yes, Hoosier was priced out, but if you are going to compete with the big boys, you need to be economically able to compete by the rules and that means being able to supply tires for every team if that's what needed to happen. How is it in one sentence you write about 'additional funding', and next write they were priced out? In other words, they couldn't afford it...


Monkeesfan said...

nh nascar - no story then or later ever mentioned cut tires; indeed, Shaun Assael notes in Wide Open: Days And Nights On The NASCAR Tour the role of driver error in those wrecks. They lost control, period, which wasn't that hard to do given how little downforce those cars had (am I the only one here who remembers the epidemic of air-off-the-spoiler wrecks at that time?) and how windy it was that particular weekend.

Hoosier was priced out because NASCAR quite deliberately made it too expensive for them. NASCAR should not have done that because it cut off an important revenue and engineering stream for raceteams.

The fact remains that tiure wars mean more teams get greater reveneu and engineering streams which translates into more winners and more competition. It was the case in 1988's dramatic rise in first-time winners and comeback winners, and it was the case in 1994's breakage of a two-year-old drougt of first-time winners.

The safety argument is bogus, shown as such by realworld history.