Goodyear blows chance to clear air

June 17, 2009
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stewartWere Goodyear officials and Jeff Gordon just blowing smoke after the most recent tire test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

Some NASCAR followers think so. More than a few fendered car fans want to know why the driver affectionately known as Smoke, Tony Stewart, wasn’t at the mic yesterday instead of IMS booster Gordon.

Gordon, who was raised in Indiana, gave Goodyear’s new tires a glowing review. In the process, he couldn’t have pumped the Brickyard 400 more if he had been waving a pair of pom-poms. He loves the IMS, and why shouldn’t he. He’s kissed the bricks as Brickyard champ four times.

Stewart, on the other hand, is far less political—or should I say politically correct—than Gordon. Stewart was at the June 1-2 NASCAR tire test at the Brickyard—the one closed to the media. Stewart asked to be part of that test, according to Goodyear officials. But when reporters were let in at the conclusion of yesterday’s tire test, Smoke had long cleared the building. That’s because he was not at this week’s test. Instead, his teammate, Ryan Newman, was on hand. Stewart’s endorsement could have gone a long way to clearing the air on this issue once and for all—and could have served as a catalyst for ticket sales especially among the most skeptical among us.

“I want to hear from the man who said Hoosier and Firestone tires blow Goodyear away,” one IBJ reader told me yesterday. “Until I hear from him, I won’t believe they have all the problems solved. I guess I’ll have to wait for race day now, and if they don’t have the problems solved this year, I’m gone for good.”

Last year, a yellow flag had to be dropped every 10 to 12 laps to keep the shredding Goodyear tires from blowing. This year, the tires should last at least 30 laps, Gordon said. He even guaranteed a good race. To be fair, Gordon wasn’t alone in testifying on behalf of Goodyear. Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne also gave the new rubber compound a thumbs up.

The Speedway can’t afford to turn off any more NASCAR fans. NASCAR attendance is down across the board this year by about 10 percent. The Brickyard 400 has traditionally attracted between 230,000 and 250,000 annually. Even Speedway officials doubt 200,000 will attend this year. If attendance drops 50,000, that means about $4 million in revenue goes up in smoke. Motorsports business experts estimate the financial decline at this year’s Brickyard 400—including hospitality could be double that. Estimates put annual revenue for the Brickyard 400 in the $35 million to $40 million range.

All this has come at a time when IMS boss Tony George is pinching his pennies under the watchful eye of the facilities’ board of directors.

As for the man NASCAR fans call Smoke, he’ll be here on race. That’s one guarantee you can count on. And you can bet someone will ask him about Goodyear tires. Of course by that time, it likely will be a moot point—one way or another.
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  • Not sure why they did not have Smoke there, but I guarantee if he was not happy with the tires, he would be all over the press. If he has something to say, he will say it and the press will report it. Much ado about nothing.
  • Wake up Indyman, this whole thing looked pretty scripted to me. Having Stewart there would have gone a long way toward quelling any fans fears they'd see a repeat of last year. He is the one NASCAR guy most known for telling it like it is. I agree, this was a missed opportunity, and in this economy they (Goodyear/Speedway officials) can't afford to make mistakes like that. Any other thinking is simply born of arrogance.
  • Well, racing fans are still weighing in on this week's Goodyear tire test. Speedway spokesman Ron Green emailed me the transcript from the Pocono weekend (June 5-7) press conference where Tony Stewart made comments about the June 1-2 tire test at the IMS. Stewart's quote follows:
    “I can’t tell you what is going to happen when we go back (to Indianapolis). I can tell you the other day we ran a full fuel run on a set of tires and didn’t have a problem with it. I was pleasantly surprised. I know Ryan (Newman) had went and done the first two or three tire tests there and they hadn’t made it that far. The other day, and I don’t know if it was because it was right after the Indy 500 or what and if there was still rubber down from that, but the tire wear was great. There was cording early in the session but no more than what we’ve always seen in the past there. It didn’t take long at all with four cars running to get it to where you could run 20 to 25 laps pretty easily and by the end of the day you could run a full fuel run. If the conditions stay like they are now I’m confident they’ve got a tire that we’re not going to have to worry about. Obviously there is a lot of time and a lot of weather that is going to come in between now and then and I don’t know how that is going to affect everything. If we had to race this weekend I could promise you that we would have a tire that could make it the whole way.”
  • If the problem recurs, then the first two words of the title of this post will be much repeated on July 26 (Goodyear blows) just as they were last year.
  • Just a quick correction...Jeff Gordon is NOT an Indiana native...he was born in California.
  • I stand corrected. Jeff Gordon was indeed born in California and moved to Indiana when he was a young lad.
  • Ahhh who cares? NASCAR is going the way of the 8-track, the Packard, the TV rabbit ears, the newspaper, and the typrwriter all have or are in the process of.

    NASCAR = Out of Indy in 2 to 3 years

    NASCAR = Gone forever in 10 to 12, (Well, maybe hillbilly local tracks still)
  • So I guess Tony gave his ringing endorsement....well as ringing as he would give.
  • Yea, I agree, Indyman, Tony Stewart's endorsement isn't ringing too loudly. Goodyear and Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials must think NASCAR fans are pretty stupid to think Jeff Gordon's guarantee wouldn't be taken as scripted. And it doesn't matter what Stewart said at Pocono. Who was listening then anyway. If Stewart really supported the new Goodyear tire, they should have had him at the Speedway this week. The audience listening to that message is the one that really counts if you're concerned with attendance for the Brickyard. Every one who pays attention to NASCAR knows Tony tells it like it is. If he would have guaranteed a good Brickyard 400 while sitting alongside Goodyear's Greg Stucker at the hallowed Speedway, now that would have meant something.
  • Brickyard = Pacers

    Can't give the tickets away....
  • because it is a boring race on an unexciting race track for 'stock cars'
  • Going forward, in an effort to save time, comments should be copied from each racing post to the newest one.

    How many times can the same people say the same things about their like and dislike for TG, IRL, and NASCAR? And here I thought the IndyStar message boards were humorous.
  • I agree that an endorsement from Smoke would have gone a long way toward settling the issue. Gordon is a Speedway homer and while it was smart PR by IMS to have him up there, both will look silly and lose lots of credibility if anything bad happens at this year's race.

    The smarter move (albeit riskier) would have been to have Stewart offering his opinions.

    I went to last year's race and, as a result, I'm not coming back. Yes, for qualifications, no for the race.
  • Mark,

    I would have to disagree that if Smoke was happy with it he would have said so. Smoke is outspoken, but he is reserving his comments for race weekend. He is a smart man and will not paint himself in a corner. If he had doubts, he would be saying so. I think what he said is the best info anyone will get out of him until race weekend.
  • Reserving his comments, yes. Maybe what he didn't say speaks loudest. I certainly didn't hear any guarantees in there.
  • If Tony gave guarantees that there would be no problems, I would be concerned that he had been bought out by NASCAR.

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