A combination of supply chain issues and a labor shortage have resulted in a deficiency of available tires throughout the short track industry, predominantly with Hoosier Racing Tire.
Irish Saunders, who is the asphalt business manager at Hoosier, said that the company has been working hard to mitigate the shortage but has grown more frustrated with every passing day.
“In 40 years, I have never seen things the way they are now,” Saunders said. “We’re producing more tires than we ever have in the history of the company and our employees are working six days a week, 24 hours a day. However, if I’m being honest, I have no idea where the hell everything is going.”
Of the numerous tracks Saunders has talked with in recent weeks, he said that many of them have been inundated with requests for 16 or 24 tires from teams as opposed to the usual four or eight per weekend.
“I had a racetrack call me the other day saying they needed 800 tires because they were going to have 40 cars,” Saunders said. “A weekly race at this track normally gets 12 cars, so I told [the representative] that if they got 40 or more cars, I would give them $2,000. If they got less, they would have to pay me $2,000. He couldn’t do that and his request went down from 800 to 350.”
Saunders cited another example in which the Midwest Modifieds Tour asked for 400 tires at Kalamazoo Speedway on May 15. Over 40 cars were entered but only 140 tires were sold, with the rest being returned to the distributor and promptly sold off to other tracks.
Saunders believes that teams having more money available following a COVID-19-stricken season has motivated the to purchase more tires, which has subsequently ignited the fear of a shortage similar to the one surrounding gasoline following the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack.
The tire shortage has not been exclusive to just Hoosier, as Saunders has been in communication with employees from Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels and Dunlop Tyres who have also struggled to meet the growing needs of their consumers.
American Racer director of racing Scott Junod stopped short of saying that his company had a low supply of tires but is concerned that an overall lack of labor will cause a separate set of problems as the shortage worsens.
“We are down quite a few people,” Junod said. “If I can hire 50 people today, that’s great, but I have to train those people and getting [them] up to speed is going to take a while. You can’t just step into this job and build tires overnight.”
Junod said that he has worked tirelessly to try and find people to work for American Racer but has had little success as unemployed Americans seek quality wages and job conditions.
Although individual labor shortages around the country are expected to be resolved with higher wages, Junod is still looking for an ideal short-term solution that will allow American Racer to properly cater to their customers without exhausting resources.
“Racers are mobile,” Junod said. “Whatever issues that befall our competitors are eventually going to become our issues because we’re going to see racers come over to our tracks and it will increase the demand of our products. We’re trying to protect what we have on our existing customers the best we can but we’re not going to get out of this without a few bumps and bruises.”
Another issue that both Hoosier and American Racer are currently facing concerns the availability of raw materials that they and other tire suppliers bring in from Texas.
Weather issues in the state this year such as flooding and an ice storm have impacted operations at the refineries, which has created a shortage and caused prices on the raw materials available to increase.
Even with raw materials and tires being scarce and costly, Saunders does not expect their demand to slow down anytime soon and is asking for everyone to be more responsible with their purchases in order for races to keep going during the shortage.
“Sooner or later, people are going to run out of money,” Saunders said. “We’re trying to ration and make sure everyone is taken care of but we are going to run out of tires if people keep buying at this rate. Take what you need.”
While Saunders remains optimistic, he knows that he can not control the actions of Hoosier’s consumers and will be watching short track racing closely over the next few weeks as the shortage persists.
Short Track Scene’s Andy Marquis contributed to this story.