Meet Al LocyFor the past 11 years, Locy has been "doing tires" for a multitude of Winston West and Winston Cup teams in locations throughout the world. Locy's career began in 1988 as a "gopher" for a Winston West team. Since then, Locy has studied every minute nuance of tires, including tire changing, in his quest to help his race teams go faster. His hard work paid off as he has become known as one of racing's premiere tire men. Today, although he is semiretired, race teams still call on Locy for tire-setup and compound advice.
There can be little argument that tires are one of the most important elements of any race car, so taking care of the black rubber is vital. Sure, your shop may be loaded with the latest and greatest in tire-care equipment, but what about when you venture to the track? Do you take everything you need to keep your link to the track's surface in top condition? Maybe you do-then again, maybe you don't.
Circle Track spoke with renowned tire man Al Locy to gain insight on what he considers to be the most important tire tools and how they are used. Some are relatively complex and some are amazingly simple, but all are essential to proper trackside tire care. So check your toolbox. Make sure you have these with you the next time you load up the trailer because you just might need them
Tire TipWhen marking directly onto your tire, put the same type of information in the same location every time. For example, Locy always puts LF, RF, LR, or RR (left or right, front or rear) markings after the "r" in Goodyear. That way, everybody on the team knows exactly where to look when they want that information. Also, make the letters large so they are easy to see.
Tire TipDon't waste your time trying to analyze your tires until all the information has been gathered. Only with all the available data can you make a clear picture of how your tires are performing.
Tire TipMany teams wear extra lug nuts on their uniforms on a handy zip-tie setup (shown) so they can be easily pulled off and used quickly. But there are even faster methods.
"I used to carry an extra lug nut in my mouth during stops," Locy remembers. "Of course, I would wash them first. I was looking for every advantage I could, and this way if a lug nut would fall off, I could just drop the extra nut right into my hand without wasting time having to drop my gun to grab a lug nut from my uniform."
And no, Locy never came close to swallowing one.
Tire TipUse a pyrometer as soon as you possibly can once the car has stopped and begin with the right-front tire first, then the right rear, then the left rear, and end on the left front. The front tire temperatures are most important since this is where you look first for any handling clues.
Tire TipBefore every race, make sure your tire gauges are accurate. Many tire companies have ultra-accurate gauges, so you can calibrate your gauge to theirs. Again, do this prior to every race to ensure you get the right pressures in your tires. Also, if you drop a gauge, no matter how light the impact may seem, recalibrate it. Don't let an incorrect pressure reading keep you from winning.
Tire TipWhenever you put a new air chuck or air hose on a nitrogen bottle, always remember to bleed the bottle a little to let any atmospheric air out.
"When you put a new piece on your nitrogen equipment," Locy says, "there is going to be a lot of regular air inside the hose or in the chuck, and you want to bleed all that out. So when you air up your tires, you will be putting nitrogen in and not regular air. Regular air can create a lot more moisture inside your tire, and that will make your tires inconsistently build up pressure every time you hit the track."