There’s been an awful lot of talk recently about changing the layout at various track to make racing more exciting. Bristol is the most-talked-about track, with Bruton Smith planning a $1M revamp of the track to take it back to the way it was before he changed it in 2007.
There are a number of factors that dictate how “exciting” racing is. For example, the track width and how many “grooves” there are make a big difference in how easy it is to pass cars without “helping” them out of your way with your front bumper. But last I looked, grip — the source of all speed — is dependent on the interaction of two things: the tire and the track. There’s a lot of talk about tracks, but not a lot of talk about tires.
Remember back a few years when tires were a topic of conversation every other week? Tony Stewart lighting into Goodyear for the tires at Atlanta in 2008? The Indy tire debacle that same year? The 2005 Charlotte ‘levigation’ when they “smoothed” the track using a diamond grinder? Tires aren’t much of a topic these days. Goodyear’s done an amazing job amidst a slew of re-paving projects from Talladega and Daytona to Bristol and Michigan.
But have they done too good a job? Some people have suggested that the tires stay in good shape for too long. It’s possible to go multiple fuel runs without taking tires at many tracks. If the tires wore faster, might that add an element to the racing that’s missing now by forcing crew chiefs to make tougher decisions about whether to take tires and drivers to take better care of their tires? Harder tires don’t wear as fast as softer tires – but softer tires are more likely to fail by being worn down rapidly. It’s a difficult balancing decision and the consequences for Goodyear if they’re not exactly right are significant in terms of how fans perceive the brand. Take a look at the opinions below and tell me what you think.