ShareThis Page
Drivers back Stewart’s tire assessment |

Drivers back Stewart’s tire assessment

| Tuesday, March 11, 2008 12:00 a.m

DARLINGTON, S.C. – A day after Tony Stewart assailed Goodyear for the tires it provided at Atlanta Motor Speedway, three other drivers echoed his complaints — but without the same venom.

“I think he went a little overboard,” four-time series champion Jeff Gordon said. “He kind of made it personal.”

Gordon, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman all tested tires for Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. at the newly paved Darlington Raceway on Monday, and all agreed the rubber at Atlanta wasn’t favorable for driving conditions.

But none was as angry as Stewart, who said Goodyear gave him “the most pathetic racing tire I’ve ever been on in my professional career.”

Goodyear officials participating in Monday’s test refused comment, and the garage was closed to media. Still, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Casey Mears and Brad Keselowski crashed the test and took a spin on the new surface in an SUV.

But the tire company issued a statement defending its Atlanta product, while promising to retest the rubber before the series returns to the track in October.

“We provided what we believed were the best possible products for the races this past weekend,” the company said. “We believe that our engineering, research and tire development is second to none. We accept that drivers will have their own opinions about tires.

“Even though both Goodyear and NASCAR were satisfied with the tire’s performance in Atlanta, if the drivers are not happy, then Goodyear’s not happy.”

Stewart, who wrecked two races ago in Las Vegas when his right front tire blew, was unhappy all weekend in Atlanta.

Gordon said he spoke with the two-time champion before Sunday’s Cup race, and “could tell he was pretty wound up about it.”

After the first green flag run, when it became clear that grip was lacking on the tires, Gordon knew Stewart would be irate after the race.

“We were all pretty out of control out there,” Gordon said. “I don’t disagree with him as far as the comfort level in the situation we were in. But we have to look at all sides of this and try to give the folks that are doing their jobs the ability and constructive criticism to try to do it better.”

Newman agreed with Stewart’s sentiment that the hard compound made the tire difficult to drive on around Atlanta’s abrasive surface. But he cited Goodyear’s emphasis on safety in saying Stewart overreacted in his assessment of the tires.

“The tire thing is a little blown out of proportion,” Newman said. “There’s a lot of things he said that were true. Obviously, he took it to another level. That’s Tony. Everybody is different.

“But I don’t know of anybody who popped a tire, or that had a tire issue to the point where we had tire problems. Is there a grip issue• Borderline. Yeah. Is there justification in some of Tony’s comments• Probably. Did Tony overreact• Probably.”

Goodyear also defended itself against accusations Stewart made that the tire company was chased from several other racing series.

“They got run out of Formula One. They got run out of CART, the IRL. They got run out of World of Outlaws sprint cars. They got run out of USAC divisions because they couldn’t keep up and make a quality enough product,” Stewart said.

Goodyear called Stewart’s remark an “erroneous comment” and said it decided to leave other racing series “only because of the escalating costs of competition.”

Goodyear is the exclusive tire provider for NASCAR and not subjected to competition from rival companies. Goodyear also hand-picks the drivers who participate in each tire test, and maintains it rotates its choices through teams and manufacturers.

But in bringing three cars to Darlington representing Chevrolet (Gordon), Dodge (Newman) and Ford (Biffle), Toyota felt snubbed by its exclusion. Stewart drives a Toyota but the manufacturer said Goodyear selected the participating teams before Stewart’s complaints.

Sprint Cup program manager Andy Graves said he unsuccessfully lobbied NASCAR for Toyota to be included in the test.

“It feels like it puts us as at a little disadvantage,” Graves said.

Goodyear said the manufacturer needs only two to three teams for collecting data, and the exclusion of Toyota wasn’t deliberate.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.