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Motor Sports


by Larry Roberts

November 28, 1997

The recent announcement by Goodyear that it is getting out of racing must be really big news - so big that I saw it announced on our local premium TV station on the business segment of the six o'clock news a couple of nights ago.

Actually, the announcement given by the smiling, well-coiffured anchor lady was not exactly accurate. Goodyear is only getting out of international Grand Prix racing and it won't be doing that until after the 1998 season. The reason for the company's withdraw is two fold: first, it plans to concentrate its efforts on the various racing series in North America and second, it doesn't like the new tire rules that the powers-that-be in Formula One racing plan to bring into play in 1999. The new rule for narrower, treaded tires goes counter to "...Goodyear's objective to advance technology to a higher level," according to Bill Sharp, head man of Goodyear's global support operations.

As Goodyear steps away from Formula One racing, it leaves a winner - at least for the '97 season. It supplied tires to the top seven teams including Williams, the constructor's championship winner, and Ferrari, the runner-up.

And although the statistics aren't in yet for the entire 20th century (the company is great on record-keeping), I'm sure that Goodyear will stand out among the makers of racing tires. In the '80s, cars shod with Goodyear tires won 1,554 races during the decade and that's out of a reported 1,868 events entered. Eighty-three percent of everything Goodyear entered back then, it won.

Since it got involved in Grand Prix racing in '65, F-1 cars rolling on Goodyears won 361 times, as well as scoring 25 World Driver's Championships and 25 World Constructor's Championships.

The official Goodyear press release on the subject states that the company plans to stay active in domestic racing and it may be a very timely move. Other companies are closing in on Goodyear in American racing. The Indy 500 and its parent sanctioning body, the Indy Racing League (IRL), isn't the premiere U.S. racing venue it used to be, but it's still a big deal to TV viewers. Arie Luyendyk won the 500 on Firestones while Tony Stewart won the IRL championship this year, also using Firestone tires.

In the Championship Auto Racing Team (CART) series, Alex Zanardi driving the Firestone-shod Target/Ganassi Reynard 971, was crowned driving champ for '97 and parenthetically, Firestone-equipped cars won every road or street circuit event put on by CART this year as well as 11 of its final 13 races of the season.

But in the world of NASCAR, Goodyear is definitely in the winner's circle - and with good reason. Every vehicle that runs in NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch Series, or Craftsman Truck races rolls on Goodyear tires. And since these are arguably the most enthusiastically-spectated forms of American racing, the Akron, Ohio-based company has the inside track on all the other tire makers in the world. Michelin may sell more tires than anyone else in this country, and Bridgestone/Firestone may be the largest maker of tire and rubber products on the planet, but to the "good ol' boys," it's Goodyear that makes the world go around - at least in races like the Daytona and California 500s.

And now that the company will be stepping out of its "foreign entanglements" after next year, maybe it will be able to get into more winner's circles in different kinds of races over here.