If you’ve been racing or been a fan in attendance out at Dominion Raceway, other then the amazement of the facility. Eventually you’ll notice that the Late Model race division there are using a brand of race tire unknown to many throughout the racing community.
On the side of the racing tires at Dominion Raceway is a brand called McCreary which is manufactured by Specialty Tires of America from Indiana, Pennsylvania who also produces what may be known better to most as the manufacturer of American Racer Tires. In fact, before Specialty Tires of America came about the company was also known as The McCreary Tire and Rubber Company dating back as far as 1915. So its not that the brand name of McCreary hasn’t been around, its just the name hasn’t been used in quite a while.
What many in the racing community are used to is the name American Racer but however, the American Racer racing tire and the McCreary named racing tire are two different tires from Specialty Tires of America. In fact, McCreary racing tires are only being used at Dominion Raceway and at no other race facility in America according to Director of Racing for American Racer Scott Junod. When Dominion Raceway extended out the invitation to the tire manufactures to come test at the new facility.
Reported by the track itself at the beginning of the race year, American Racer made the case to be the official tire supplier and had engineered a tire to specifically address the brand new asphalt demands of durability while having the ability to meet performance requirements that the race teams should expect. So there, the relationship between Dominion Raceway and American Racer begins, meeting the demands of racing and also offering savings both both the track and the racer. What’s not to love in this venture right?
Now with that bit of background, the 2016 race season at Dominion Raceway is coming to its end. As a regular in attendance, covering the racing in the Late Model division along with the Modified division as well. There have been several occasion’s of racer crumbling of tire failure that resulted in poor finishes. Things like pin holes and small quarter inch cuts that seeps air from the tire leading to strong vibrations and eventual spins bringing out the caution. But this is nothing new at any track we see, these things happen all the time. But what has brought to light and has caused some concerns is the recent crash that Late Model competitors Owen Smith and recently Justin Carroll experienced. Smith was able to make repairs to his car but for Justin Carroll, his car was destroyed and will soon be scrapped. In both cases, both competitors had catastrophic tire failure where the tires simply blew up.
Also in recent weeks, Doug Barnes Jr early in a race had to come in for a left rear tire going down. Once replaced, he soon came back to pit road complaining of a major vibration in which the team discovered a blistered right rear with less then 30 laps of competition. In light of the recent events, the suspicion of a potential tire problem with the McCreary race tire was fair to ask right? Our friends over at Short Track Scene broke the news of the potential issue and brought the news to the forefront. RACE22.com decided to hold tight on the news knowing that days later, a huge 150 lap event was to take place at Dominion Raceway. A race that would put the McCreary brand to the test and discover if in fact there was any notable issues that supports there being any problem with the tire.
RACE22.com believes that there are three sides in a full investigation of the potential issues with the McCreary race tire. One being the side of Justin Carroll the racer, another being Dominion Raceway who has made the investment and Specialty Tires of America who believes that they have engineered a quality race tire unique to the demands of Dominion Raceway’s track surface.
“I definitely feel there’s a tire problem at Dominion,” claims Justin Carroll. “I’m not exactly sure why my tire came apart and I don’t think anyone really is. I’m a hundred percent confident that it wasn’t anything about the car and that it was definitely a tire issue. Hopefully they can get the issues resolved so no one gets hurt up there.”
American Racer Director of Racing Scott Junod offered his view of the tires.
“No I don’t think we have a problem at all,” expresses Junod. “We think they’re have been some people who have taken some risks in air pressure and things of that nature that defines the limits of where the tire can go. That’s what I believe is happening here and we have had some blistering in a few tires here and there that we have seen none tonight after this one hundred and fifty lap race. It was a hot night with some long green flag runs and at the end of the night we inspected everyone’s car and found nothing.”
Track owner Steve Britt shared his thoughts on the potential tire issue as well.
“I don’t think so,” says Britt. “I think because we have a new track and a very tacky surface, we have very, very competitive racing here so I don’t think we have a tire issue I just think we have a great facility and its probably stressing the tires out, the motors out along with the rest of the components on the cars. But were very pleased with our relationship and that will continue going forward.”
With the obvious difference in opinions, lets give you a bit more background on the physical attributes witnessed by us in person to help you draw a better conclusion on the matter. We visited Justin Carroll’s race shop to see for ourselves exactly what the tire looked like that came apart.
Suggested by American Racing officials, we looked at the inner carcass of the tire and noticed that the tire was coming apart from the inside on what would have been the edge of the tire where it was digging into the tack on the right front. For those that have expertise in race tires, this can indicate excessive heat and excessive camber. But unique to the findings, crew chief Dwaine Skinnel wanted me to witness and explain the fact that clear across the tread of the tire. The tread depth from one side to the other read 5/32’s and this was on the same blown tire that had nearly ninety laps on it.
Being said, this gives much credit to Skinnel and not being aggressive in his set up of Justin Carroll’s car. Mind you, this was in fact Carroll’s first race in competition at the track which they were also told by many that the threshold for air pressure was between 20 lbs to 23 lbs. Skinnel claims that he set his pressure in the tire that blew at 20.5 lbs which was within the threshold. Simply put, Carroll and Skinnel both feel that they were fairly conservative in they’re set up for being out there for the first time.
However, on the American Racer website, information critical to the performance of the tire is noted as here is exactly what it says.
Asphalt Racing Tire Prep:
Often it is not possible to scuff a tire before racing, but if possible, you should follow these steps. Run 6-8 laps at no greater than ¾ speed, then let the tire completely cool down. A second light scuff session followed by storing the tire several days or even a week is recommended, and has proven to be ideal for preparing a tire for competition. Scuffing brings the tire up to the lower end of its operating temperature, but not too hot. DO NOT DRIVE AT TOP SPEED DURING THE SCUFF SESSION. This will cause the tire to “give up” or “fall off” prematurely in competition.
As with any bias ply racing tire, it is a good idea to scuff (break- in) new tires before use in competition. The reason is that asphalt racing compounds need a light heat cycle to condition, or toughen the tire for maximum performance and longevity.
Now what I myself have personally seen at the track is teams would do as much as an eight lap scuff but what is noticed is that soon after they go immediately into qualifying. So a good question to ask would be the time between the scuff and qualifying was that ample time for the tire to cool to have its light heat cycle to condition?
So from this point, what happens next? American Racer, Dominion Raceway and Justin Carroll all want to know exactly what happened to Carroll’s tire. Not just to satisfy the matter and move on, but to genuinely develop resolve and learn from the possible tire failure. Obviously, safety is the main focus despite opinions and performance on the track.
“With anything you do in racing, there’s three parts were looking at. We want to try to be cost effective for our drivers, you want something (tire) that races well and of course there’s the safety aspect to it,” explains Dominion Raceway Track Manager Edwin Pardue. “The number of laps that we have logged in early testing on that tire has been unbelievable so when the aspect of safety is brought up its something that we take very seriously.”
“Nobody benefits with an unsafe condition, certainly we spend everyday with the quality control that we have in place to make sure that or certainly to minimize any risk having to do with the tire,” stated Junod. “This is as dangerous sport as people do, that’s why we have such great fans. Its why we have such great racers, these guys and gals go out there and risk quite a bit every time they go out on that track. We appreciate that and they always put on a show for all of us. We absolutely, would never intentionally or even try to provide an unsafe product. So if we got issues we’re going to deal with them before anybody gets hurt, but at the present time, we got some minor nicks and cuts I think we got to deal with”.
American Racer representatives were eager to learn more about the potential tire failure and reached out to Terry Carroll Motorsports who were very willing to allow an initial investigation at they’re race shop. Though as you might imagine, the two parties could not reach an agreement into the cause of the possible tire failure but both sides however did agree that an independent, non biased investigation was indeed warranted in to the cause.
“But overall with the Carroll incident, I think there’s a pretty solid explanation for that and the Carroll family was very gracious to us,” says Junod. “They invited us in to take a look at the tire, we dismounted the tire, we saw some things on it that might indicate something but were going to get some independent view on that just to confirm. Simply, you know the Carroll’s are concerned and I understand that, I think for everybody concerned that it might be better if an independent set of eyes take a look at it.”
Justin Carroll agrees.
“Yeah, I feel like we need to get a third party investigation so we can get a opinion and I feel it doesn’t need to come from anyone they know or from anyone we know”, states Carroll. “Its gotta come from someone whose even across the board so it’s a fair testing. I just felt like they were trying to cover themselves and not hurt their company which I could understand to an extent but I mean it wouldn’t have got pushed out by the media if they just come out and said they had a tire problem whether it was just my tire or they had several tire problems so yeah, we need to get an independent third party investigation.”
In doing my investigation, it was important to involve all sides involved regarding the issues surrounding the tires in the Late Model division at Dominion Raceway. As a fan, friend, supporter of the sport, we all share together that safety above all should be the priority and every conscious effort be made to ensure a safe race product is always on the track. Which includes a safe race tire for competitors to be on, which should also include well thought calculations of pushing the parameters by the race teams that use them. No tire is beyond failure as any other of the components to a race car.
There is always that fine line in the search and development of speed that always tends to infringe on the available means of these race cars no matter what division of racing your in. Winning and championship race teams are experts at bordering those means but to do it, place a lot of faith in the products used on their race cars. The race tire, is the only component of the race car that connects the car to the track and arguably, is the most critical. Being said, I applaud Dominion Raceway, American Racer and Terry Carroll Motorsports for being professionals coming together in search of resolve.
So do we have a tire issue at Dominion Raceway? No ones for sure but everyone involved is working together to certainly find out.