Fears about a tire shortage have become reality during the summer.
Ace Speedway and Orange County Speedway have been among the tracks forced to cancel events over the past month because of the scarcity, with more cancellations expected in the next few weeks.
Jason Turner, who owns Ace Speedway, said that multiple factors are contributing to the ongoing tire shortage and that the situation is becoming more concerning with every passing weekend.
“The story we’ve been getting is that there is a nylon shortage,” Turner said. “I’ve also heard that [Hoosier] has a warehouse capable of storing an exorbitant amount of tires but that Hoosier wasn’t manufacturing as many tires as we were consuming. It’s also possible that we’ve depleted that warehouse and exceeded Hoosier’s manufacturing capabilities because of the nylon shortage.”
When concerns became more prevalent in the spring, Hoosier and other tire manufactures encouraged tracks to be more cautious about tire purchases so that they could meet the needs of their consumers.
Along with supply not meeting demand and a lack of available of raw materials, rubber producers are also struggling to keep up with the increasing worldwide demand of car tires while simultaneously dealing with global supply chain issues exacerbated by climate change, the pandemic and other factors.
Many tracks and sanctioning bodies took proactive measures earlier in the year to ensure that drivers would still be able to race but most of these actions have made little impact on conserving tires.
The CARS Tour initially limited the number of tires teams could purchase. However, the series is now requiring teams to bring their own practice sets for the upcoming Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway with available tires still scarce.
Despite this, not every track has been significantly impacted by the ongoing tire shortage. The Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway on Saturday will be a ten-tire race, six of which will be used for the 200-lap feature.
More available compounds and existing tire rules have benefitted Virginia tracks like Langley, which also made extensive preparations for the Hampton Heat by building up their supply over the past two months.
Peyton Sellers, who is one of 30 drivers set to compete in Saturday’s Hampton Heat, agrees with Turner’s viewpoint and said that more tires have to be sold when there is a surplus of entries for major events. The one difference for Sellers this year is that his team will not be able to buy eight tires for practice.
Sellers has also heard a variety of different reasons contributing to the tire shortage but said that the only thing he can do is make necessary adjustments before and during a respective event.
“You have to learn how to diagnose your car on older tires and try to make them last longer,” Sellers said. “That means you have to run fewer laps in practice. We’re all in the same boat and nobody is getting special privileges, so we all have to dig in.”
One positive that Sellers believes could come out of the tire shortage is teams being convinced to save more money on sets once Hoosier and other manufacturers are able to restock their inventories.
A prolonged shortage could affect Sellers’ hopes for another NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series titles if races keep getting cancelled but he said that tracks around the country have the most to lose from the ongoing situation.
“This is unfortunate for all parties,” Sellers said. “Tires are a very critical source of income for tracks and they are losing cars because they can’t sell tires. Hooiser’s bottom-line is certainly being affected as well but the tracks are the ones taking the heat because the competitors are upset with the tracks for not having tires.”
To keep his competitors satisfied, Turner is implementing temporary changes for future races at Ace like South Boston’s impound and tire scuffing procedures.
While Turner is optimistic that Ace will finish its 2021 season, he said that cancelled events like the inaugural Dual Short Track Showdown held in conjunction with Tri-County Speedway have only created more financial strain on the track, particularly when it comes to attendance, concessions and selling sponsorships.
Only a handful of races were held at Ace in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions placed on the track and Turner is worried that another shortened season could result in more problems that the track would not be able to recover from.
Turner believes that the upcoming offseason will give tire manufacturers plenty of time to replenish their supply but he stressed that more unification and communication are needed so that tracks like Ace do not face the threat of a shortened season due to circumstances outside of their control.
“We’ve got to pull together as an industry,” Turner said. “Tracks, drivers, suppliers and manufacturers need to get together and get through this thing until more tires get built. All of this is a sign of the times, but Hoosier needs to start building up some inventory so that all these other tracks can make it to the end of the year.”
Three months of on-track activity remain on Ace’s 2021 schedule if there are no more cancellations, including the track’s most prestigious race in the Rodney Cook Classic on Oct. 23.
Turner plans to create the best possible short-term strategy across Ace’s remaining events all while keeping a close eye on the dwindling amount of tires at his disposal.
Short Track Scene reached out to Hoosier but they could not be reached for comment.