By admin | March 9, 2008
Stewart has the right to blister Goodyear
By Richard Allen
Finally! A race car driver got out of his car and actually had something critical to say about Goodyear.
I am by no means out to get Goodyear, but how many times has it happened? Drivers have been unable to race side by side but yet they get out of their cars at the end of the day and among the first things they do is thank Goodyear for giving them a great tire. Or, there have been numerous blown tires and everyone with access to a scanner can hear each driverâ€™s concern that he may be the next one to go head on into the wall, yet they get out of the car and refuse to say anything negative about the tire maker.
I am not a race car driver and I am not a tire engineer, but I am someone who has watched racing for a long time. I feel that I am qualified to say whether a race was a good one or a bad one. Sundayâ€™s race in Atlanta was a bad one. There is no other way to describe it.
This time, however, there were drivers who were ready to place blame where they thought it should have been placed, and that was on the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
Tony Stewart declared, â€œThat was the most pathetic tire Iâ€™ve ever been on in my professional career.â€ He went on to add, â€œIt was ridiculous to have a race on a tire like this. Not at this level of racing. If they canâ€™t do anything better than that, they should just pull out of the sport and save us a bunch of headaches.â€
Perhaps Stewart has more right to blister Goodyear than anyone. He suffered a hard crash last week in Las Vegas after an apparent tire failure. If Goodyear did indeed bring a tire that was too hard, it would have been him who could have been forgiven for holding his tongue. After all, it is doubtful anyone would want to crash like that two weeks in a row.
Stewartâ€™s criticisms are often quoted. He has criticized NASCAR, other drivers and the media. Sometimes his critiques seem a bit off base and other times they are dead on.
These remarks are more likely dead on because fellow drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon backed up Stewartâ€™s comments in their post race interviews.
As I said before, I am neither a driver nor an engineer so I am not really in a position to support or denounce Stewartâ€™s statement. I am just glad he said it. Goodyear should not get a free pass if they are deserving of some criticism, or even if someone just thinks they are deserving.
Drivers, crew members, media and fans often throw barbs at NASCAR, the Car of Tomorrow, the Chase for the Championship and whatever else happens to be the topic of the day. However, Goodyear seems to always be allowed to remain above the fray.
I am not sure what allows the company, which probably has more direct impact on competition than any of the previously mentioned topics, to only receive praise. I donâ€™t know if teams are afraid of losing tire test dates, not getting those coveted matched sets or being last to be waited on at the tire truck, but whatever it is, it has freed the company from receiving criticism, until today.
Goodyear representative Justin Fantozzi responded to the harsh comments by saying, â€œWe do the best job that we can with the data set we have and we bring the safest tires we know how to build.â€
I believe that is true. I do not believe Goodyear ever comes to a track with the intent of ruining a race. I also do not believe Goodyear would ever compromise the safety of drivers. They have a difficult job, but lots of people have difficult jobs and they get criticized when they do not perform well. Goodyear should get praised when their tire provides good, safe racing. And, they are not above being criticized when their tires do not perform as they should.
As I have said, I do not know what the answer is, but I hope the remarks made after the Kobalt Tools 500 serve to improve the racing we will see from now on.
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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