Turn 2 Blog: Tires, Tires, Tires


*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com in which site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the east Tennessee dirt racing topics of the day.

Richard: Tires, tires, tires.

Can there be any more touchy subject in dirt racing today than tires? Whether it has to do with treated tires or tire limitations placed on competitors by tracks and/or a particular series, the subject of racing rubber is guaranteed to spark a debate among competitors and officials anytime the topic is brought up.

And tires are likely to become even more of a hot button issue after recent developments at the Screven Motor Speedway in Georgia. The “Winter Freeze” scheduled for early February at that track was to be sanctioned by the World of Outlaws Late Models Series until a disagreement over tire rules caused a break in that relationship. Now, the two Super Late Model features will run as unsanctioned events with an open tire rule rather than the mandated tire brand and compounds stipulated by WoO.

I know we try to keep our discussions centered on local subjects here in this blog, but these events will no doubt have repercussions throughout the dirt racing world on all levels. So here’s the question at hand- Is it better for competitors, tracks and series to have limitations on the types of tires being used or is it better to allow for more options?

Michael: The issue of tires is the biggest thing facing dirt late model racing. This form of racing is so unique in that a competitor can take his car and race it at any track in his area, where the rules allow, and even race with the top national series’ of the sport. That makes finding a balance between the professional racers and the local guys such a tricky issue.

I don’t know what the real answer is for the compounds race teams can use. One thing I love about the sport is the competitors having different compounds to choose from and them making their own choices based off their experiences. Even if that is limited to a choice between three or so compounds is something I think most people that actually race can live with.

When it comes to the manufacturers allowed and buying a specific stamped tire for a particular series, that’s where it becomes really tricky. I personally enjoy seeing Hoosier and American Racer both being involved in the sport. Only allowing one brand for the sake of a few dollars is not good for competition between race teams and the tire manufacturers themselves. But I understand why they do it.

I do find it interesting that both Lucas and World of Outlaws have had more open tires rules for both compounds and brands since they started and now they’re starting to limit one or both.

Richard: I understand why tracks and series’ put limitations in place. In a sense, it’s almost as if the competitors have to be protected from themselves. If there were no limitations, there would always be someone out there who would bring every imaginable compound and/or brand to the track on a weekly basis. I also get the idea of protecting your own, as some believe the different series’ are doing by mandating certain stamped tires as a way of essentially rewarding those drivers who have stuck with them. At the same time, however, such requirements might also serve to discourage local guys from entering races when the traveling series’ come to town because the locals don’t want to invest significant money into tires they may never use again.

That is precisely the argument being made by Screven Motor Speedway. Track owner James “Redd” Griffin has stated that he does not want to put his local drivers in the position of having to makeĀ a one time purchase of tires that will not be used again. According to statistics released by the track, there were 66 Super Late Models that competed in the “Winter Freeze” in 2012 when there was an open tire rule, but only 39 of those type cars raced the following year when tire restrictions were put in place. Both of those events were sanctioned by the World of Outlaws.

Like you, Michael, I like the idea of having multiple tire manufacturers involved. It adds an additional element of competition to the sport. And to take that away for the sake of receiving money from one or the other company to make them “the official tire of series XYZ” rings too much of NASCAR.

But again, I can see their point. Having no limitations opens the door for a myriad of problems in an era in which tire cheating has become such an issue. And, limitations help the regulars on the tour keep tire costs down.

However, one thing is for sure, racers will always find ways to spend money. As the old saying goes, “all racers spend the same amount of money on racing… all they have.”

Michael: We will see in a few weeks how the fans feel about the change at Screven. Do they want to see 60+ cars with some recognizable names or 35-40 cars with a bunch of the top names in the sport? But there’s no guarantee that many drivers will be there. It’s a big gamble.

Juicing tires still remains a hot button issue. It still goes on and those making the chemicals are trying their best to stay ahead of the lab’s detection methods. It’s probably the ugliest side of the sport right now. I feel the only real way to eliminate tire cheating is to do like NASCAR and have tires brought in and mounted at the track. But most people on both sides of the sport, drivers and series officials, don’t want to go that route. Maybe someone else out there has a better idea.

Edited 1-18-14 to correct factual errors.

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