TIRES IN SHORT SUPPLY AT OXFORD 250 by Mike Twist
Track Gets Involved to Balance the Haves and Haves-Nots
So when there is a tire shortage, real or perceived, at one of the biggest short track events in the country, that’s cause for concern among the pit area.

Friday was the first day of practice for the TD Banknorth 250.  It was also the day when the majority of teams attempting to qualify for the race picked out and purchased their tires for the weekend.  Even a few teams that didn’t tow their racecars into the track until Saturday, like the #84 entry of Scott Mulkern, laid claim to new rubber.

On Friday, some teams bought as many as 24, 28, 32 or more tires for use over the weekend.  Come Saturday morning, that meant that left side tires were sold out and the inventory of right side tires was down to 20.
There aren’t many things on a racecar more important than tires.  After all, just about every team from street stock to Nextel Cup have a tire specialist on their crew, but not too many of those teams have someone dedicated to parts like springs, A-Frames or radiators.  Bolting on a new set of tires gives a driver instant confidence and is good for gaining at least several tenths of a second per lap.
Black and yellow are the colors of the weekend for SP2 Motorsports at Oxford.
Several teams didn’t even pull into the track until Saturday, and more are expected to sign in on Sunday morning.  Drivers like Mike Parks, John Phippen, Matt Eaton and others found that they were out of luck when the got to the track.

The reason was that some of the better-funded teams in the pit area might have overbought and the supply side could not keep up. 
“We bought 12 tires yesterday,” said Travis Benjamin.  “We’re not even using new tires today.  These teams are buying them up and I don’t know why.  I can only see how you’d need 16 at the most.  That gives you four sets – one to practice on, one for the heat race and two for the race.  I guess if you’re in the consi, you might want to buy four more.

“It would definitely help to get to go out in practice each time on new tires.  You can learn then what the car is doing.  Not having all those tires makes it more fair for someone like me who can’t afford that many tires.”

Rumors flew around the pit area on Saturday morning as to what the solution would be.  Some teams waited on
keel.  The sooner that you get in the show, the better off you’ll be.  That’s why we have so many tires.  Look at what Mike had to do last year.  Before the race started, we had already burned up three sets of tires in the heat race, the consi and the last chance race.”

“As long as everyone in the pit area has the same amount of lefts, that’s all that I care about,” said Clark.  “I don’t want one team with more tires.” 

Apparently, this isn’t the first time that there has been a situation like this at the 250.
"No Tires" - the message on Mike Parks' car says it all. (51 Photos)
going through technical inspection process in order to make sure that they would have the tires that they needed to race on.  Bringing more tires in on short notice was not an option either.  Although the PASS North Series runs on a similar type of American Racer tire, it is a softer compound that would likely be 3/10th of a second per lap quicker.

So in the middle of Saturday morning’s practice session, track officials met with several of the teams who placed large tire orders on Friday and redistributed the tires in a more even manner.  Reportedly, the teams of Johnny Clark, Ricky Craven, Scott Mulkern, Mike Rowe, Kyle Busch, J.J. Yeley, Bill Whorff, Jr. and Jeremie Whorff were among those who had to cut back the size of their tire orders.
Those who were affected understood the situation and what needed to be done.

“Anyone who showed up here today or tomorrow and couldn’t get left side tires should be aggravated,” said Johnny Clark.  “I would be.  If I was a guy like Matt Eaton or John Phippen and I couldn’t get tires or I might be able to buy two, but I knew that Johnny Clark had a bunch of tires, I wouldn’t be too happy.  They’re doing what they need to do and I think that the track is handling it pretty well.  It will all work out in the end.”

“They took some of our lefts.  What are you going to do?” said Steve Perry, co-owner of the SP2 Motorsports cars of Mike Rowe and Kyle Busch.

“I’m sure that we’ll be fine.  Now everyone is on an even
How important was going to the tire tent early?  Scott Mulkern didn't even bring his hauler to the track until halfway through practice on Saturday, but he was at the track buying his tires on Friday.
“It was the same situation that they had back in ’97 I believe,” said Perry.  “There was shortage of left side tires then.  We were running Beech Ridge at the time, but we came up on Friday to buy tires.  The guys who raced Beech Ridge on Saturday night and came in on Sunday to buy tires ran into the same situation.  I think that they were only allowed to buy two lefts and if they got into the race, they would help you try to find more.”

Most of the teams that Speed51.com spoke to plan on only making one four-tire change during the 250 green flag laps in tomorrow’s race and with nearly half of the pit area not even making it into the big show, a tire shortage is unlikely in the feature event.  However, it could be a
factor in the heat races.  Even if it isn’t, competitors will probably still be talking about the topic.

“I’m sure that everything will be fine,” said Perry.  “As long as I don’t hear someone whining that the reason they didn’t do good was because they didn’t have tires.”

Speed51.com will continue to monitor the tire issue, as well as all of the other going-ons at the TD Banknorth 250.  Stay tuned for updates from the track throughout the weekend.


CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SPEED51.COM 2006 TD BANKNORTH 250 STORY INDEX




Team members took part in a tire meeting on Saturday that addressed the situation.  (Lisa Twist Photo)