The Frontstretch: Voices From the Heartland: There IS room for more than Goodyear by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday April 21, 2005

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After hearing recent tidbits of rumors that a new ‘tire war’ may be looming on NASCAR’s horizon and the fact that I’ve thought for a few years now that Goodyear tires are way overrated, I think it’s high time I share my thinking with the rest of y’all.

The rumor, as I understand it, is that Toyota, while anticipating its eventual entry into the Cup Series, has been testing NASCAR style tires made by Bridgestone.

Now I realize that rumors are more often than not just BS, but a lot of the time, they, as was so aptly pointed out to me by my High School principal in his office one day, are based on some sort of fact. (Much to his dismay, my principal was never able to actually prove anything.)

This particular ‘tire war’ rumor is not new, and when asked about it back in 2003, a top NASCAR official dismissed it as “just garage gossip”. However, the return of this rumor has re-ignited a bunch of fires among NASCAR fans and even drivers.

If it is true that Toyota is testing such a tire, the question that begs to be asked is “Why test it if you don’t plan to run it?” Thus, the possible basis in fact.

The consensus of many fans on Frontstretch.com’s own message board is that a new ‘tire war’ in NASCAR would be a disastrous thing, ending in injury and or death. Mark Martin’s quote from 2003, about competing tire companies that “They’re going to kill somebody” was even revived. Numerous deaths and injuries from the past are again being blamed on sub-par tires due to NASCAR allowing anyone to challenge Goodyear in the past. That last challenge occurred around 1994. Always one to play the devil’s advocate, I see things a bit differently.

While it may be true that some accidents where caused by tires letting go, to use that as the main argument for retaining Goodyear’s monopoly in NASCAR is a bit absurd to my way of thinking. What about deaths that happened that didn’t involve tires? My point being, that race cars go fast, and going really fast in anything on any kind of tire is inherently dangerous.

How many deaths and/or injuries can be attributed to a Goodyear tire failing? How many tire failures have there been this year alone due to Goodyear’s new ‘softer compound’? What do you do when you only have one choice and that choice is a piece of crap?

Another thing to consider is that, in my opinion, most of the deaths that have occurred as a result of a tire failure and subsequent crash into the wall in, say in the last twenty years, could have been prevented had NASCAR not been so reluctant to give up cash for ‘soft wall’ research. I mean, hey, tire technology has steadily gotten better over the years, but the physics of a race car hitting a concrete wall has always remained the same! It wasn’t until the death of NASCAR’s biggest icon ever, that they got off the pot and mandated ‘soft walls’. And its not like ‘SAFER’ barriers were some big ‘technological break-through’. We’re talking square steel tubes with rigid foam behind them for crying out loud! You want me to believe that some bright engineers (or even dumb ones for that matter) couldn’t have thought that up 25 years ago, had they been given the money and objective to do so?

Tire technology, whether it be for passenger cars or race cars, has improved over the last 11 years, don’t tell me it hasn’t. Competition IS good. It makes the other guys stay on his toes. In today’s world, I don’t believe that you would see the same ‘tire war’ that is being blamed for past injuries and deaths. Tire companies would have to produce what the teams wanted, which common sense would tell you, would be a tire that is safe and durable and meets NASCAR specs.

There IS room in NASCAR for competition among tire companies, but is there room for competition in NASCAR period?! That is the real question. Has anyone ever uttered the words ‘parity’ and ‘NASCAR’ in the same sentence? (Ok, this is the part where you discuss this amongst yourselves…)

Stay off the wall (no matter which tire you use!),

Jeff

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Marc
04/22/2005 05:17 AM
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Generally I agree with your article and remember well when Hoosier Tire was an alternete choice in NASCAR.

I do note one assertion the is not based on reality.

Quote: “What do you do when you only have one choice and that choice is a piece of crap?”

Lets assume for argument that Bridgestone enters NASCAR along with Toyota. Also assume sometime within the first half season there are numerous crashes attributed to the “new tire war.” Almost without exception the accidents are by cars shod with Bridgestone tires.

Do you honestly believe one or all of the Toyota/Bridgestone drivers have the choice of switching brands? Highly unlikely, the individual teams would be under contract to Toyota and Bridgestone and not allowed to switch. The only caveat would be igf NASCAR stepped in and mandated the switch for safety reasons.

In the worst case scenario, and assuming the higher crash rate is split between both manufacturers, what choice is there? Both options, Goodyear or Bridgestone,
equally at fault.

Having said all that, I do hope Bridgestone is brought into the NASCAR fold, so to speak. After all part of what makes America strong is competition. NASCAR is no different.

Thanks for a thought provoking article and plan on useing it as a basis for a piece on my weblog
Full Throttle

Marc Boland

 

Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
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