Some tracks will penalize a team with tires that measure significantly softer than the majority of other teams' tires. The above example shows why this may not be the right thing to do. What is best for the sport is having close competition in which everyone is on the same page and all racers are doing the same thing-not something in between. Since some racers will always soak, that leaves little choice for the tracks.

Is Tire Soaking Dangerous? Just about all tire companies warn racers against the use of chemical treatment of their tires. The two largest manufacturers of racing tires in the U.S. include the following warnings on their Web sites:

Goodyear: Never attempt to treat or alter the tire carcass and/or tread compound of any Goodyear Racing Tire; such as tire "soaking" or use of tread "softener." This practice could result in premature or catastrophic tire failure with resulting serious injury or death.

Hoosier: Chemical Treatment of Tires-Hoosier Racing Tire Corporation strictly forbids any chemical alteration of the tire carcass and/or tread compound such as tire "soaking" or use of tread "softener."

These warnings carry a degree of validity for those who choose to mix up their own batch of tire brew in the backyard barn. Some types of chemicals will deteriorate the tire compound as well as the core structure and possibly cause the tire to fail with obviously dangerous results. The companies who publicly sell tire treatments all have a highly refined knowledge of the chemicals they use and exactly how those affect the tire in all areas.

Many of the early concoctions were made using, among other things, turpentine, kerosene, and creosote. Modern commercial race tire treatments do not use these chemicals. In fact, the argument that modern tire treatments use so-called dangerous chemicals that can cause health problems is absolutely true. The problem with that presentation is that these same chemicals are found in products we all use on a day-to-day basis such as gasoline, paint, and paint thinners and solvents.

Tuluene, Xylene, and Acetone may be used in some or all of the modern tire treatments. When asked if tire treatments may contain those chemicals, an expert in the industry confirmed it. At first glance, these sound like chemicals we should avoid, but do we really come in contact with these in our everyday lives? Let's see what the government has to say about their availability and uses.

Tuluene: The EPA states on its Web site that "the largest chemical use for tuluene is to make benzene and urethane. It is released into the atmosphere principally from the volatilization (vaporization) of petroleum fuels and tuluene-based solvents and thinners and from motor vehicle exhaust."

Xlyene: OSHA says, "Xylene is used as a solvent in paint, printing, rubber, and leather industries; as a solvent for gums and resins, rubber, castor and linseed oils and dibenzylcellulose; as a constituent of paints, lacquers, varnishes, inks, dyes, adhesives, and cleaning fluids; as a carrier in production of epoxy resins; as a degreaser and cleaning agent; as a constituent of motor and aviation fuels; in chemical synthesis; and in the manufacture of quartz crystal oscillators, perfumes, and insect repellents."

Acetone: From the CDC Web site: "Acetone is a manufactured chemical that is also found naturally in the environment. Acetone is used to make plastic, fibers, drugs, and other chemicals. It is also used to dissolve other substances. It occurs naturally in plants, trees, volcanic gases, forest fires, and as a product of the breakdown of body fat. It is present in vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, and landfill sites."