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Holding a Pretty Wheel: TIREd… of Goodyear’s Excuses

There’s procrastinating, and then there’s procrastinating. Your average everyday procrastinating is generally no big deal. So you take out the trash tomorrow and wash the car next week (don’t do that if you run over a possum, by the way; it’s hard to get the blood off. Yes, I did learn that the hard way.). Most of the time, unless there’s an angry boss involved, a little procrastinating never really hurts anyone.

But this is nuts.

When NASCAR developed the new car, it was designed to handle differently, to be harder to drive, and to be able to pass. It was designed to race on a big, wide tire so that it would grip the track better in the turns, which would provide more exciting racing by allowing cars to race side-by-side in those turns. NASCAR even upped the timetable for the new car by a few months. The car is here.

The problem is, the tire isn’t. In fact, it’s not even close.

Goodyear, NASCAR’s official tire supplier, said earlier that they had a CoT-specific tire in the works, to be ready by 2010. Now, Goodyear is spreading the word that the new tire won’t be ready next year after all. In fact, according to Goodyear, it’s “at least” two years away.

This new timetable is, at best, unacceptable. There is actually no excuse for there not being a CoT-specific tire right now. The car was developed over two or three years, longer conceptually. Goodyear should have been developing a tire from day one, to debut with the new car, so that teams’ learning curves would happen all at once. Instead, the car will have raced on the old tires for at least four years by the time Goodyear gets with the program. That means that teams will have to figure out handling and setups all over again when they’re just starting to get it now. And it’s race fans who will suffer.

At this point, I’m not even sure it’s entirely Goodyear’s fault, because NASCAR should have told them from day one to either get with the program or they would find a tire company who would. But instead they allowed Goodyear to do nothing so that the Sprint Cup teams are racing on Nationwide tires.

It’s also sheer laziness and greed on Goodyear’s part. Sure it’s easier and cheaper to run the same tire in three racing series, but only if you have the same car in three racing series. In NASCAR’s top three, the cars couldn’t be more different. For some reason, the trucks race well enough on the same tire as the Nationwide cars, but the Cup cars do not do well with the tire, proving that what’s good for the goose is NOT always good for the gander. Again the car was designed for a different tire entirely.

SMITH: GOODYEAR MOUNTING A POOR REPUTATION

I seem to be in a minority when I say that I don’t have anything against the new car, but I just don’t feel that it’s accurate to pass judgment when a component as important as tires isn’t even on the car. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait a while before we get to find out if the car really is what NASCAR has said all long, because on the old tire, frankly… it isn’t. And that isn’t really NASCAR’s fault. Except for the aforementioned not telling Goodyear to get their butt in gear, of course. I’ve never been against the new car, and I’m all for safety. Once the tire is in place, then we’ll really know.

Unfortunately, we have to wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

Yep… still waiting!

Don’t get me wrong on this. I’m not suggesting that Goodyear speed up the development process to the point where there is any doubt at all about the safety of the new tire, which can only come with extensive testing. I’m merely suggesting that this should have all been done years ago, on a timetable to match the car. I’m also not suggesting a tire war similar to the one in the 1990s that compromised safety to the point where drivers lost their lives in largely preventable accidents.

I’m not against another tire manufacturer, either. If another company can produce a better tire safely and sanely, then NASCAR owes it to the fans to look at that option. If the powers that be would look past the pall that the tire wars cast, they would open their eyes to the fact that Hoosiers are used in other racing series, including NASCAR’s lower ranks, with great success. If the sanctioning body wants to stop hemorrhaging fans, they would do well to lose the rule that says a tire company has to bring enough tires for everyone, and let the tire companies work out deals with the race teams individually, the way other parts manufacturers do. That would force the tire companies to be constantly developing a better handling, more durable tire – and that would be good for the sport.

It’s just not fair to blame the car for all of NASCAR’s ills when it’s not sitting on top of the rubber it was always meant to have. NASCAR owes it to the fans to hold its contractors accountable for their jobs, and to make a change if a contractor isn’t doing the job right. Goodyear owes it to the fans, and to NASCAR, to keep up with the Joneses instead of letting complacency and greed take over. It’s time for everyone to stop procrastinating!

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