There are some very dangerous and sometimes illegal chemicals that some racers try to incorporate into their homemade treatments. Legitimate tire-treatment manufacturers do not use ingredients that either hurt the tire or are illegal or overly dangerous to the user. Several representatives of these companies told us their products are no more dangerous to handle than gasoline or motor oil. A certain degree of care must be taken when handling all chemicals, even everyday cleaning products.
The facts about the safety of legitimate commercial tire treatments speak for themselves. All of the companies we contacted told us they would not be in the business of selling race tire treatment if they thought it dangerous. With our litigious society as it is, they wouldn't have to make that decision-the public would make it for them.
What Does The Future Hold?
The fact is that most racers want to use tire treatments. A few don't want to use it but must because other top teams soak. Since tire soaking makes the tires perform better, the cars will handle better. When the cars handle better, we get better racing for the benefit of the spectators. Better racing means more attendance and more money to run the track, not to mention more profits for the track owners.
Racers are allowed to, within certain limitations, tune their carburetors, motors, setups, shocks, gearing, and so on, so why not the tires? Some have suggested that one reason tracks are adamant about stopping soaking is because they operate as the tire vendor, and that is a source of income for the track owners. If every team were able to use their tires longer through the use of soaking, then fewer tires would be sold.
Sinbad, the tire-sniffing dog, is a member of the Irwindale Speedway official crew in 2004
If true, this mentality is directly contrary to what most promoters and sanctioning bodies say. Their stated goals supposedly include finding ways to save the racer money. Among the most expensive items a racer must continually buy are the tires. Many parts companies and race shops offer to treat a race team's tires for them at a cost of around $45 per set. You can do it yourself for less. Compare the low cost of soaking to that of a new set valued at between $400 and $600 per set.
Do the math: Example savings-for 30 weeks of racing, a team either buys new tires every week at $440 for a yearly total of $13,200, or soaks and uses the same tires for three weeks for a yearly total of $4,400 (10 sets at $440) plus $45 per week soaking costs, which totals $5,750 yearly. Soaking saves this team $7,450. That's enough to freshen most Late Model race engines or actually purchase a new Stock class motor.
There have been teams that could continue to race in part to the availability and use of tire treatments and the cost savings. So, does the future of racing really depend on the elimination or the allowance of soaking? The fact remains that you can only treat a tire to a certain level of durometer reading whether it is new or used. Soaking could possibly level the playing field in many cases.
Many racers feel it's time the promoters across the country were better educated and responsive to what the racers really want and need on all fronts. That means having the integrity to put the racer, who spends lots of money to show up and put on the show every week, at the top, instead of at the bottom, of the food chain. The more popular soaking becomes, the better the products will become. It is the opinion of many racers that when everyone is allowed by rule to treat their tires, no one will have an advantage in the area of tires. More teams will be able to afford to race more competitively, and then the sport will be better off.
The Nose Knows
It's against the rules to soak tires at California's Irwindale Speedway, and it has been a tech inspector's nightmare to find the culprits. Due to the complexity of the checking process, some tracks don't even test for soaking, turning a blind eye to the process. That's not the case at Irwindale.