By Ken Bruce
Everyone in the racing community will remember quite a few things regarding the 2022 dirt modfied racing season. There was Matt Sheppard’s magical season, the announced closing of Grandview Speedway that was thankfully rescinded, the inability to get parts for motors and of course the tire shortages by both American Racer and Hoosier Tires.
We did manage to make it through the season with tires but there was definitely some consternation, especially during the summer months as teams were forced to get by with what they had in their trailers or shops when there were not too many to be had. When tires did become available, tire purchases were limited as most times teams were only allowed to purchase one tire at a time. It made for some hard decisions for both teams and track promoters who in some instances shortened length of features and altered their track prep to try and limit tire wear.
I had the opportunity to speak with American Racer Tire sales representative Dustin Leverknight a few weeks back at the Pioneer Pole Buildings Racecar and Trade Show to get his perspective on how the tire situation will play out in 2023.
“2023 is definitely looking a lot better for us,” said Leverknight. “The off season has been strong; we ended the 2022 season strong which definitely helped going into the off season. We had plenty of tires available for the season ending big races and guys were able to stock up even if just a little bit so it’s been pretty quiet here over the winter. It’s funny, all of the cars here with American Racer tires didn’t get them from me so they must have got them at the end of last year.”
“We have been able to get some tires stocked up in the warehouse and we definitely feel that 2023 will be much better. I am sure there will be a hiccup or two along the way, there always is and that is to be expected but nothing along the lines we had last year and that makes us feel a lot more comfortable going forward.”
Last year’s situation was a combination of many things and was something that American Racer Tires hopes to avoid in the future.
“There were a lot of factors that led to what happened last year,” explained Leverknight. “Most every business on the planet is looking for employees and that was a factor. Nylon is a big part of making racing tires and there was a big shortage of that last year. We went over a month without being able to get nylon to build our dirt tires so for the modified guys, they were directly affected by that. So because of that we lost a month of production and we cannot sell what we can’t buy. Once we got some nylon the guys at the factory were able rock and roll and get some tires out for everyone.”
“To my recollection, I don’t think any shows were cancelled due to not having tires. Was it tight at times, yes it was and yeah, things could have been a little better, but we got through the season and everybody survived. Teams were forced to make decisions on whether to bolt on a new tire or try to get another race out of the one they had on. But we got through the season and quite honestly, for as down as we were with product availability how well the season still went. But with all that being said, the materials issues seem to be resolved and our employee staffing at the factory is stable. We work closely with the factory every day; it is important to stay in communication with them as we get ready to gear up to head to Florida. Once we get back from Florida, we will starting moving out some tires to the dealers and get ready for the 2023 season up here in the northeast. We are already planning mid-season orders to try and stay ahead of it and doing the best we can to sell and get back everybody we used. More so than the dirt modifieds, out mod-lite and micro teams suffered last year and we really felt bad for that and we want to get them the tires they need and up and rolling again. With all that being said, we are optimistic going into 2023. I don’t often get a chance to thank everyone, it was tough and I want to thank everybody for their cooperation, all of the racers, the promoters, the track officials, the dealers and everybody who had to put up with the hard times and shortages because without their hard work and cooperation none of this would be possible.”
Due to everything going on in 2022, the dealers were forced to limit tire purchases whether it be just tire a night or teams having to reserve tires from their respective dealers. Dustin hoped going forward that will not be the case.
“I don’t think that will be the case,” mentioned Leverknight. “The way it is looking right now with the off season orders we are getting in, I am looking to ship dealers tires like we did a couple of years ago which were a couple of hundred tires at a time to get the season started. You know last year we were getting tires in on a Thursday, shipping them on Friday and racing them on Saturday so we never had a chance to pile up any inventory and what we are kind of hoping here with all of our off-season stuff that gets built that we can ship to all of our dealers and still have some tires here sitting on our floor. That is always how it used to be so when the tracks called or dealers called we could ship them some tires that we still had left in the warehouse and get more in next week. If we can get back ahead of the curve so we can keep some inventory on the floor, that will alleviate a lot of the stresses that we had last year where the tires came into the shop hot and we didn’t even unload them from the pallets. The factory has done a fantastic job and made some internal changes to help get better and I cannot thank them enough along with my guys at the shop Denny and Rick, they help keep me straight with the numbers and things like that and Greg who is our delivery guy who had to make a lot of last minute runs last year. It is definitely a group effort by everyone involved in the process, there is no once person who makes it all go around, we had worked together to get through it last year and we’re looking forward to a better season this year.”