Friday, March 14, 2008

The Tire Issue: Smoke Speaks Up When No One Else Wants to

You've all read all week -- or heard live on television last weekend -- Tony Stewart's angry but well-voiced remarks about the extremely poor quality of tires Goodyear has been sending to the track, culminating with a really bad product at Atlanta. After all, when you think about it, drivers really do put their lives on the line literally race after race, and it is reprehensible that a company would provide a part of the equipment -- in this case the tires -- that is not up to par with what the drivers and teams need and expect. The performance of the cars, and the other drivers' overall agreement with Stewart's remarks should be taken as speaking volumes. No one wants to rock the boat or be the 'bad guy' and once again Tony is put in the position of speaking up and being honest, at the cost of being criticized for being outspoken. Tony Stewart has, reluctantly I feel, had to pick up the torch as far as being the voice of the racers in the garage, since the loss of the late great Dale Earnhardt. Other big name drivers tend to stick to the NASCAR party line and try not to take responsibility. Tony has the maturity, ethics and sense of responsibility to try and address an issue when it becomes potentially dangerous to the drivers. It's admirable to see someone willing to speak up at the risk of NASCAR's ire.

Stewart is one of the few racers in the series who has raced in virtually every major racing circuit out there (with the exception of Formula One, IF you want to call that a major racing circuit -- but that's another blog for another time). With the experience Stewart has, if he says the tires Goodyear is bringing to the track are garbage, then you can pretty well bet the ranch on that.

I've heard it said the past few years that Goodyear has been 'clearing out the warehouses' and getting rid of a lot of tires via what they bring to the races.

NASCAR has been on the safety high-horse the past 7 years since the death of Dale Earnhardt. The shoe box COT is NASCAR's answer for more in-car safety. Why aren't they at the forefront of this question trying to find out what Goodyear really is sending to the track instead of sticking their feet in cement and doing their usual lip service to a vendor they do not wish to offend? Mike Helton went on Tony Stewart's Sirius satellite show this week and tried to tone down things, but only came across as a NASCAR apologist. Yes, I know. That's his job. It's what he does.

If one of the premiere racers in NASCAR says there is a tire problem, you can pretty well believe that where there's Smoke, there's fire...