By admin | July 30, 2008
By Richard Allen
Last year in Atlanta water was discovered in the fuel used by teams during the Pep Boys 500. That water caused Denny Hamlin’s car to slow unexpectedly on a late race restart leaving Martin Truex with no where to go but into Hamlin’s car.
NASCAR has an exclusive deal that allows only Sunoco to supply racing fuel.
The problem in Atlanta was traced to a portable gas dispenser. The issue appears to have been a one time thing which was resolved.
Having only one supplier of any product opens the door for problems such as this. In this particular case, multiple suppliers probably would not have made any difference as the trouble was not discovered until after the race had been completed. That is, of course, unless having multiple suppliers would have caused each to do a more careful pre race check.
The good side of having only one supplier of any product is that the one supplier can provide more specialized service.
NASCAR only allows one company to supply tires to its teams. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company has exclusive rights to provide any and all racing tires for each of the three top divisions NASCAR sanctions.
Sunday’s race in Indianapolis showed the bad side of having a sole supplier.
If the product that one company brings to the track is bad, there is no where else to turn. Thus, the competitors, and ultimately, the fans will suffer.
As someone who once taught high school economics I can attest to the fact that even the most basic of text books will state that competition causes businesses to attempt to improve their product and sell it for a lower price.
Almost as quickly as the mention of there being another tire supplier in NASCAR comes about, some will shout the words “tire war” and predict such a move would be terrible for racing. Those who make such claims will even go so far as to predict the eventual demise of the sport.
My question is, how could it be any worse than it was last Sunday?
Other tire companies, namely Hoosier and Firestone, manufacture tires for other forms of racing.
The last time there was more than one tire supplier in the Sprint Cup division was 1994. That year, Hoosier provided tires to a limited number of teams. Driver Geoff Bodine won four races that year with their tires on his car. However, tire count requirements eventually drove the company away from NASCAR’s top division that same year.
Competition would force all companies involved to produce a better tire. And, think of the intrigue involved with the different pit strategies between teams on different brands of tires.
Almost certainly, various teams, particularly the big teams, would sign on to use one brand of tire exclusively. This could actually provide smaller teams with an edge. If, for example, Robby Gordon Motorsports were not bound by contract to run a particular tire they could run whichever offered them the best chance at a good finish that week.
If teams chose to bind themselves to one tire or another, the companies who supplied those teams, in theory anyway, would do their best to make sure their tires could win.
And more importantly, teams and the tire companies would actually want to go to the tracks and test the tires, which would hopefully prevent another fiasco.
As it stands now, NASCAR and Goodyear use a silly policy of testing tires at a few tracks. Typically, only three teams participate in these tests. The teams to do the tests are chosen by Goodyear.
Naturally, teams want to test as often as possible in hopes of gaining an edge. Is it possible there is any coincidence in the fact that since Goodyear chooses the teams who will test, no one ever criticizes Goodyear, no matter how bad things might be?
That is why it was such Earth shattering news earlier this year in Atlanta for Tony Stewart to publicly chastise the manufacturer.
NASCAR has chosen to allow sole suppliers in certain areas such as tires and gasoline, mainly because the companies involved have paid big money to the sanctioning body to get the right to be the “Official tire or gasoline of NASCAR”. That policy came back to bite NASCAR, hard.
The Brickyard 400 should have served as a wake up call to the powers that be. They need to answer one of the most important questions the sport may have ever faced. That is, do we continue to line our pockets and allow things like this to happen again? Or, do we take a proactive approach to see that this is a one time occurrence?
Other major sports address, or at least look like they address, the problems their leagues face. The NFL has adopted a get tough policy with its players who find themselves in legal trouble. An NBA referee was sentenced just yesterday for his involvement in a gambling ring.
Will NASCAR address this problem? If not, the sport cannot last through many more Brickyard 400s.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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