By BILL FOLEY
Old timers remember when Hoosier and American Racers weren’t the only tires of choice.
In the late 20th Century Modified teams traveling throughout the Northeast and across the Mason-Dixon Line several times a year might have M&H, McCreary’s, Goodyear’s, Firestones or a host of other tires to pick and choose from on any given night.
Times have changed and today in Northeast Modified racing you have no choice per say with DIRTcar it’s “Hoosier Racing Tires” and the Short Track Super Series it’s “American Racer Tires.”
With the current chaos of getting tires some fans have said, “Run an open tire rule. Let them run what they want.”
Well, contractually that is relatively impossible currently with DIRTcar and STSS.
However, it is a topic that might as well be addressed.
Dirt Track Digest reached out to industry representatives including drivers, promoters and performance folks to see what thoughts might be out there.
As a bit of background, Scott Jeffery of Scott Jeffery’s Performance Plus said, “Hoosiers are about $210 plus tax. Hoosiers have gone up 30 to 40 dollars over the past few years.”
Meanwhile, promoter Brett Deyo noted, “American Racers are just over $220 and haven’t increased as much as the other, but they have still jumped up.”
Addressing the Open Tire possibility, Deyo said, “Open tire rules cost money. It sounds great on paper; let them race whatever tire they want, but that translates to a team needing five, six or seven right rears, three or four left rears or right fronts in the trailer depending on the weather and track conditions. It would run most teams out of business.”
He reflected on a solution for the tire situation by explaining, “For our Fonda and South Carolina events this season, we limited it to one compound American Racer per corner and the teams could not have been more thankful. Instead of heading South with five or six right rears at $200 apiece and waiting to see what the track conditions were to pick, they had one, same for the left rear and right front.”
Michael Maresca added his comments and said, “I think it would be tough to roll into a track having to carry up to three to eight compounds of tires, plus stagger options. Also it would put a strains on manufacturers to make that many compounds. But if a track, was to say, run an American Racer 53 which is a decent tire, but somewhat hard, with tire sampling and testing, it would be an option I’m fine with. They could open up late model tires I guess to help with supply, but they need to have compound rules in place. Otherwise people will be burning tires up faster.”
Tire rules have been in play early this season as Mike said, “The tire rules for Gaffney (Cherokee) and All Tech were pretty good and Fonda has a good tire rule as well with American Racers.”
Dean Reynolds, with DIRTcar Northeast, addressed the issue and started by saying, “It’s indeed some tough times for race teams, sanctioning bodies and manufacturers. Rules have been brought to the forefront more in the last few months. While supplying will be a challenge, you will have the same issues if you open the tire rule up and then some”.
Continuing he said, “Teams will then try to use all resources available to enhance their inventory of tires so they have what would work best for that particular event. It would be like the 90’s and early 2000’s again when it wasn’t uncommon to see teams with 30 to 40 mounted tires with three or four manufacturers and different compounds. The cost for the teams would be much more. Everyone needs to stay the course and stay with the rules to limit choices so the manufacturers can concentrate on building the compounds that will be needed.”
In regards to DIRTcar, he explained, “On our side it’s really just two choices, Hoosier 300 and 400. We have a 500, but it is rarely used. It’s what we are facing. Keeping the choices to a minimum is definitely the best route”.
Matt Sheppard, who is a champion on both the Super DIRTcar Series and the Short Track Super Series commented by saying, “Open in general wouldn’t work because there are two separate series with separate tire money. On the American Racer side they are making less compounds and making the tire rules less open because of availability. On the Hoosier side you would need way more compounds and tires. The late models are also limiting the tire options because of shortages. The days of ‘open’ tire rules are long gone.”
Billy Pauch Jr., had a slightly different look and noted, “An open tire rule would be a nice idea, but the problem is American Racer Tires are superior tires on the dirt Modified circuit. When the 300’s and dirt (DIRTcar) tires were made they were made to last which puts them at a big disadvantage for sure.”
Non-touring driver Chad Phelps had a to the point opinion and said, “I believe it would make things worse and cost team more money.”
Ryan Godown, who has run both Hoosiers and American Racers in his career, noted, “No matter what you do we still have to buy tires, but opening up tires will cost us much more money so I am not sure why anyone would think an open tire rule is a good idea.”
Gary Tomkins had numerous thoughts and input in regards to having an open tire rule.
He began, “It’s bad, bad, bad. First off, race tracks and sanctioning bodies now have in their business models a relationship with a tire company to use certain tires they manufacture. In return there is a monetary benefit for the track or sanctioning body. The tire companies have an idea of how many tires to manufacture because of this.”
Continuing he said “If the tire rules opened up, the best tires would obviously be the most popular. That would cause a shortage in the number of that tire. Price would probably go up and availability would go down. Nothing positive about that, right? It’s not like tire companies have a bunch of extra tires just laying around.”
Reflecting on his career and tires, Gary said, “I raced Sportsman back when the only rules were size rules. So I had tires that were the softest compound they ran in qualifying, then depending on the track condition, we have a few different options for the feature. That was for a Sportsman car, back when you would be lucky to be paid $250 to win. By far our biggest costs back then were tires.”
Continuing he said, “One thing about Modifieds is the different stagger combinations needed to run different tracks. Besides (if tire rulers were open) the numerous compound choices that would be needed would see only a few top teams able to justify spending the money to have all those combinations available.
“Back in the day there was no tire prep, “ said Tomkins, “you mounted tires and ran ’em. I worked for John Birosh back then. There were times he’d run McCreary’s, times he’d run Firestones and times he’d run Hoosiers. We also ran Goodyear’s a time or two also. I couldn’t imagine having all those tires mounted and prepped now. Tire rules have absolutely evened the playing field in that regard now. The guy towing in with an open trailer has to run the exact same tire as the guy with the toter trailer with two cars. There’s a misconception that maybe the guy with the open trailer would be able to find the ‘hot’ tire and beat the big dogs, trust me, that’s not reality.”
In conclusion he said, “I guess this is a good topic for discussion, but I seriously doubt tire rules will ever be opened up again, and that’s a good thing.”
Alan Johnson when asked about the open tire rule simply said, “bad…expensive.”