NASCAR Offers High-Visibility For Goodyear Tires

Monday, July 9th 2007, 5:50 pm
By: News On 6

AKRON, Ohio (AP) _ The NASCAR circuit, whose Nextel, Busch and Craftsman Truck series rely exclusively on Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. tires, means high visibility for Goodyear, and an important job for craftsmen who spend years developing and building the precision tires.

There's a lot at stake for Akron-based Goodyear and employees like Joe Nutter, 40, a tire builder since January 1998 at the company's Technical Center, the only place Goodyear makes specialized race tires, including those supplied to NASCAR.

Goodyear's deal as the sole supplier of tires to NASCAR's top three racing series was renewed this year for another five years.

Each of the 43 race teams lease up to 14 sets of four tires for use on any race day. Goodyear makes 150,000 or more NASCAR radial tires annually at its Akron Technical Center. That means revenue of about $62.4 million.

For a die-hard NASCAR fan like Nutter, building tires is fun, but he takes his job seriously.

It takes about nine months to learn how to build a tire, Nutter said. Then it takes a couple of more years to learn the best way to use the tire-building machinery, he said.

It's long hours, too, Nutter said. He and his colleagues at the Technical Center typically work 68 hours a week -- five 12-hour days and one eight-hour day.

And each tire, once it makes it to the track, has a brief life span.

A NASCAR tire has a maximum life of about 150 miles. The goal is to build a tire that lasts a full fuel run, which differs for each track.

A tire Nutter recently made was used during the Nextel Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend just outside Charlotte, N.C. That tire, just two months old, ran 28 laps at Lowe's Motor Speedway on a Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, the 2006 Nextel Cup champion.

A lot of things can go wrong in a 400-lap, 600-mile race. Drivers hope tire blowouts are not a concern. Tire reliability depends on the artistry Nutter and others put into making the highly specialized tires in the weeks and months before a race.

A race tire starts out as uncut layers of fabric, specialized rubber compound and reinforcing materials. Nutter's task is give them shape and form.

``Precision, precision, precision,'' said Peg Anop, manager of occupation development and training for Tech Center manufacturing.

As a final step, Nutter applies a small sticker inside the tire that reads: PROUDLY BUILT BY NUTTER. All the Goodyear tire builders, members of United Steelworkers Local 2, glue their names in each tire they build.

Goodyear said it is developing tires that will work better with what is called NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow, a redesign aimed at better protecting drivers. That probably will mean the drivers who race next year will be getting differently designed tires.