On March 4th, 2022, we put out an article about the supply shortage that has plagued the country since the COVID lockdowns began in 2020, and namely the parts shortage as it pertains to the short track racing world, and we centered in on what we thought was the most dangerous element to that shortage, the racing tire industry. It’s no surprise to us the short track racing world has managed to address the rest of their parts supply issue reasonably well as American ingenuity driven by the love of purpose and a dedication to a final outcome always yields remarkable results, and so it has in the short track racing world as parts builders and suppliers upped their game to meet demand out of a love for the sport. And I also have to say here that we’re emphasizing the short track racing local track side of the sport because the premier series in the sport of auto racing, especially on the rubber side of the conversation, hasn’t suffered nearly as much because big money also brings big results, and NASCAR hasn’t been hurting for Goodyears, that’s for certain. But we knew then as it’s clear now that the short track racing tire shortage was going to be a lingering problem, especially after we received a quote from Hoosier, the premier short track racing tire provider. And to say that they have a monopoly on the supply chain when it comes to the short track racing tire is understating it just a bit. The comment was as follows:
“The tire shortage issue is going to be roughly the same as it was in 2021. Asphalt tires are not the only problem, it is all racing tires. Labor shortages and getting raw materials on time when needed is what’s causing the whole issue. This really should not be a surprise to anyone as this is a global issue with many products, not just tires. Teams and sanctioning bodies are going to have to be really careful on tire consumption. Our goal is to try and get everyone as many tires as we did last year, and if we can do more, so be it. There are no promises with the way the economy is right now. We at Hoosier are trying our best and working six-seven days a week to provide tires to all of our customers.”Hoosier: (Chad Wright/Asphalt Oval Product manager)
Since we received this quote, a quote we had to lobby hard for I might add, to be honest, there has been improvement, but we can’t say it’s to the point yet that the issue has been totally alleviated. To this date, tours are getting enough tires to run 4 new for most every event, but that’s just one new set a race, for the most part. And local tracks are having to make due with their yearly allotments that are leaving them to run 1 to 2 new tires a race for their premier divisions, with 2 to 3 tires being scuffs. And in many cases, leaving the lower divisions to run on scuffs only. In the middle of a growth spurt, we see this still as a problem for the sport that most fans don’t even hear about, much less have to consider. But truth is, if you’re looking at the competition that your local short track has been providing, you should know that this is what they are performing on. And you can say that every competitor is in the same boat, but when it comes to running scuff tires, it’s a crapshoot if you want some honesty on it, and it’s been the tracks and the teams’ efforts itself that’s provided great racing despite these issues.
In our first article we stated 3 things we thought needed to happen to improve the situation. Number one being team, driver, and track cooperation to be able to manage the conundrum. So on point one, CHECK. Every short track racing fan in the nation owes a great debt of gratitude to the sport and it’s competitors and managers for what they’ve been able to do the past few years in keeping the regrowth of the sport alive and well. The “support your local track” quote should be taken to a whole new level in our opinion. It’s truly time to show the tracks and teams of short track racing the true appreciation they deserve. As I stated above, many fans don’t even know there’s an issue, and that’s due to the short track racing family that has done an amazing job at moving forward with what they do best, provide amazing short track racing entertainment. On point two, we stated that the supply chain for petroleum products, especially when it came to the materials needed in tire production, needed to become more localized to have more control in meeting demand and pricing. We stated that there are companies that are prepared to take on that task, but as of yet, the market hasn’t made the turn needed to make that happen, and the industry still relies on the Asian market. It’s a telling sign as to why the tire shortage lingers, even though it’s been greatly alleviated. But truth is, a bigger story now may be the cost. All we can do here at Short Track Report is to report this fact to the short track world and still hope the market moves to make a change. So on point two, nothing of significance has been done. But, that brings us to point three, competition.
“…we can see how option three could become a real opportunity for the right businessman. And though research and development would be a daunting task, the coming market turn could make competition a real viable reality.”Short Track Report
What we were saying was that a smart person and/or company could make a true difference in the sport if they could develop a great product. So we kept our eyes open for those people and we talked to one that we thought had real promise. On February 17, 2023, we contacted Chester Hester of Cobra Racing Tires. Chester is also the owner of The Georgia Racing Komplex, and though it’s a karting track, he understood the need for a new racing tire in the industry. Here is the conversation we had with Mr. Hester as we began our investigations into his product:
(Images on poster courtesy of COBRA RACING TIRE and Template Late Model driver Billy Yates)
SHORT TRACK REPORT – Are you looking to market at other tracks and divisions at the moment, or are you just looking to be a provider for Kingsport Speedway?
MR. HESTER – We’ve got a couple of other people that we’ve talked to and several other tracks that have contacted me, and some places we’ve tested and some series also, but I’m not right now actively marketing for that or any other track or anything until we…we want to be able to supply Kingsport and until we’re able to supply Kingsport really well, then we’re looking to open up and supply other tracks. Probably, I would say mid April or the first of May.
SHORT TRACK REPORT – Could you tell us more about your Late Model tire like where do the supplies come from, how is it made, and how did you come across the idea of building a Late Model tire from you guys being a karting tire company?
MR. HESTER – Ok…our factory is in Taiwan, as I own part of a factory there, and that’s where our tires are made. I’ve been making go kart tires myself personally for 27 years and I’ve had friends ask me many, many times in the past to make a race car tire, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. The timing was just right between seeing a need in the market, and again it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do to diversify the company more and move into other markets, so it was just time to make this tire. About two and a half years ago we started playing with it and testing it, and right now I can see the market is in need of another product.
SHORT TRACK REPORT – Is there anything else you would want the short track nation to know about your racing tires and your plans going forward?
MR. HESTER – Just a few bullet points such as the tire is very durable. We’ve seen on some tracks up to 350 laps on the tire and see the tire still have plenty of life in them. And we’ve tried to really, let’s say abuse the tire, and it’s proven to be really resilient. And the recovery rate, you know if you overdrive the car, seems to be pretty quick. For example if you overdrive it and get it too hot, if you drive a few conservative laps and let it cool back down it recovers very well. I know sometimes when you overheat a tire and get it glazed over you have to take a visit to the pits and maybe it’ll come back, but this tire seems to be able to recover as the compound rebounds really well. And the drop off of this tire is very, very little. After the initial eight to ten laps the tire stays very steady and it doesn’t continue to steadily drop off as you go.
The availability we know is going to be very important so we’re really concentrating before we open any other markets on being able to supply Kingsport and the others we’ve been talking to. We’re going to make sure we have plenty of tires for these guys and so availability will not be a problem here soon.
SHORT TRACK REPORT – Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today, we’re positive this is going to be a huge story soon and we’ll keep an eye on your progress.
MR. HESTER – Thank you guys for showing interest in what we’re doing and contacting us, and if you have any questions going forward or need any more information, don’t hesitate to reach back out and contact us in the future.
Now to be sure, the Cobra Racing short track tire is not a Hoosier tire, but that said, it’s not supposed to be. The tire is designed for durability over a long period and therefore a tire that is easy on the budget. And in our opinion, it’s a tire the short track nation needs to further ease the tire shortage issue that still currently plagues the sport, and at the same time ease the cost of racing. It could be ideal for the short track in low supply and for the budget racer. It could be the answer to the scuff tire and the racers’ cost cutting efforts. But we wanted to wait before we jumped the gun and informed the short track racing world on an unproven tire. And even as the word was getting out, we wanted to wait until the short track racer and the tracks themselves had their say on the overall experience with this tire. But that word has now come down. Galesburg Speedway in Michigan, a track who signed up to running Cobra Tires as a way to handle their tire racing supply, joined Kingsport in the decision to run the tires at their track, and on a post where Greenville-Pickens Speedway has asked for feedback on the tire, Galesburg Speedway left this comment:
“We could not be happier with how well the Cobra Racing Tire performs. We have teams racing on tires with 300 plus laps on them, and they don’t even want new tires. That’s because the ones they have are keeping up with or beating new tires. Not only has there been limited to no tire fall off from week to week, but the racing has also been phenomenal. The tire puts the driver back into the equation. We are a quarter-mile asphalt flat track and the asphalt is around thirty years old, so it’s rough. Our Template Late Models and Street Stocks run the Cobra Racing Tire. Lap times for reference are around 14.8 – 15.1 for Templates and 15.3 – 15.5 for Street Stocks. As for the company itself, WOW! They are some of the best people I have ever met, and doing business with them has been an absolute joy.”
That is an absolutely terrific endorsement of a new racing tire, and it proves that Mr. Hester was true to what he told us about the Cobra Racing Tires his company is producing. But what let us know that it was time for this update was the words from a driver himself who races at Galesburg Speedway in one of the best endorsement posts we’ve seen for any racing product. The driver is Billy Yates, and this is what he posted about the Cobra Racing Tire:
· My thoughts on the new Cobra Tire:
Week 1 when brand new (15.27 in qualifying) (4th place), Week 2 (15.31 in qualifying) (feature winner), Week 3 (15.32 in qualifying) (3rd place), Week 4 (15.19 in qualifying & fast time) (2nd place). When brand new they certainly did not have that rip off speed that a Hoosier does. They were a little greasy but not horrible. Once you got ten-fifteen laps on them they had plenty of grip. But when we asked for a new tire it wasn’t so we could get a faster tire for one lap, it was that we wanted a tire that continues to repeat week after week. And based on four weeks of the SAME four tires, I think we can all see just how well this tire repeats. Buying four new vs guys running four week old tires has no advantage at all. I bought four tires for $700 on week one. Haven’t bought a single tire since. Keep in mind this is NO soak. I applaud Galesburg Speedway for listening to the racer and being the ones to take a chance to help us. I will continue to run these same four tires until they blow apart. For reference, I am $2400 in profit this year just from not having to buy tires weekly.
This article is not about replacing the Hoosier tire by any means. But after researching for our first post on the tire shortage issue, it was clear to us then that there were three points that would improve the situation. The sport itself came together as we hoped and was fairly confident in doing what it took and working together to manage the supply it was given. But they could only go so far with it and still keep the momentum of the regrowth of short track racing going. But as we stated above, the sport and all those involved in it should be highly commended for their efforts. What they have done to keep the issue out of the fans of the sports minds has been incredible. Point two we knew would take more time, especially with the undue pressure governments all over the globe have put on the fossil fuel and petroleum industry. We can only hope going forward that smarter minds will prevail and that our nation in particular is reminded that domestic production and supply are the keys of prosperity. But when it comes to the world of stock car racing, and in particular the short track nation, it is key to reducing the cost of competing in a sport that is already an expensive endeavor to say the least. But in the meantime, only one thing will continue to ease the short track racing tire supply issue and the cost that comes with it, and that’s a market that can not only fully meet that supply demand, but in a way that leaves the racers and the tracks they race on viable options. Again, we said that a smart individual and/or company would emerge and see that the time is right for a little competition in the market that helps the tire supply decision become just a little bit easier. Right now, and hopefully for the foreseeable future, the Cobra Racing Tire company is a great answer to the issue, and we here at Short Track report wish them only the best in their endeavor. Not only for the short track racing world, but even for Hoosier itself. Hoosier’s statement that the tracks and teams were going to have to be careful on tire consumption and their statement of doing all they can to meet the market shows that a competitor, no matter how small, can help ease their burdens even more. And to us that statement was counter to a sport in the middle of growth, and so a company that can help ease the supply issue and provide a lower cost option is just what the market needs.