Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: Changing Tires & Changing Times

A hybrid won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The concept has fascinated me for the weekend. Audi has proven the newer means of propelling a vehicle around a racetrack is durable and fast. The adage of “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday” is rattling around my brain. Up to this moment, I’d dismissed out of hand the possibility of selecting one of those machines as my next personal car.

Not only were the first generation hybrids ugly as sin – but nobody had proven to me it would be monetarily or even ecologically worthwhile with their massive caustic batteries. But now, seems like I might be a little slow in accepting change, eh?

We often speak of the advancements in safety and automotive technology when we witness something new and exciting on the track. That which we take for granted in our daily lives often found its birth in the testing grounds of extreme sport. And those improvements usually are necessitated through the direct result of tragic events or on the rare moment somebody foresees a horrible end to a set of hypothetical occurrences.

Seat belts, crumple zones, lighter metals in the body, brake systems, suspension … even tires. Yes, tires; those temperamental bits of rubber and steel that NASCAR played a shell game with earlier in the weekend. With great success, I might add.

When Sprint Cup and Goodyear officials determined they needed to bring in 1,200 new tires to replace rapidly blistering lefts this past weekend at Michigan, thoughts of the 2008 Brickyard 400 rose in more than one fan’s mind. Yes, we were bringing in a new code, but would it actually be any better than the one discarded for “safety’s sake?”

In ’08, Goodyear chose to stick with a crumbling tire and prayed the surface would rubber up. The track never took and we were all subjected to an interminable race full of caution laps. Thus, a sour taste lingered and created the thought that changing a tire midstream might not net better results – because clearly Goodyear and NASCAR have no clue what they’re doing one way or the other.

Really, it all comes down to a lack of desire and belief in change – by one and all involved. Hindsight is 20/20 and usually shows us a better picture of trying times when we look back on them. In 2008 at Indy, NASCAR called those competition cautions in the name of keeping drivers uninjured.

Yes, the race itself was an abomination, but am I ultimately happier they spent the afternoon flying the yellow rather than peeling cars off the walls? Yes. Did I wish NASCAR had taken a more proactive approach to the problem and brought in a different compound? Yes as well.

On Saturday night in Michigan, there wasn’t a single happy team after the extra practice provided for the purpose of scuffing in the last-minute replacement left-side tires. But did we have wholesale tire failures on Sunday? No. In this case, change was good, as painful as it felt at the moment.

In Le Mans, a really cool looking hybrid ran for 24 hours straight and snared one of the most prestigious trophies in all of auto racing, altering how I perceived the technology behind those awful Prii. I may even buy something where the engine is attached to a power supply other than a gas tank one day. (Gah. I still can’t believe I’m writing that.)

If there’s one thing this past weekend has taught me, sometimes the willingness to embrace change can result in good things; a new kind of car in victory lane and yes, a fairly decent Cup race instead of one where we were going to be chasing disaster all day. It’s not often I’m a cheerleader for the decision making process of our sanctioning body, but today I am.

Mark the calendar. We may not see this again in quite a while.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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