By Jerry Jordan, Editor
When the green flag flies at Darlington Raceway for the Goodyear 400, it will mark a couple of firsts in NASCAR – the moving of the Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR to the spring and the tire company’s first time to have its name as the race sponsor in North America.
Since the early days of NASCAR, Goodyear has been a part of the sport and despite being a one-off car sponsor here or there, displaying branding throughout every racing facility on the circuit and being the only tire sanctioned for trucks, Xfinity or Cup series use, the name “GOODYEAR” had never been used for a race entitlement in NASCAR.
“Goodyear’s connection to Darlington dates back to 1954, when we held our very first on-track race tire test,” Karen Maroli, Vice President of Marketing for Goodyear, told Kickin’ the Tires. “Heading back to Darlington Raceway this year as the entitlement sponsor for NASCAR’s Throwback Weekend is the perfect way to celebrate our shared history in racing. We’re honored to join fans, drivers and teams in continuing to drive the sport forward.
“Goodyear is honored to be a part of the Official Throwback Weekend, a tradition that drivers and fans look forward to each year. Goodyear and NASCAR have a shared legacy that spans six decades and multiple generations, and the throwback nature of the Goodyear 400 allows us to celebrate the accomplishments of the past while also showcasing the incredible talents of drivers today.”
For drivers, Goodyear has been loved and hated throughout the course of its partnership with NASCAR. Sometimes referred to as “hockey pucks” when a driver felt their tires were too hard and at other times as “marshmallows” when they were too soft.
But Goodyear has persevered through drivers’ criticism, reveled in their accolades, putting out a track-specific tire for each race. And each tire is made by hand in Akron, Ohio by hardworking individuals like (Owen Cheyney) “Cheyney,” who built the tires used on the No. 41 car when Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500 and on the No. 48 car used at Homestead-Miami Speedway when Jimmie Johnson picked up one of his seven NASCAR Championships.
It’s a little-known fact that the person at Goodyear, who built a particular tire, has their name bonded into the tire itself during the manufacturing process on a small yellow sticker.
And according to Cheyney, who spoke with Kickin’ the Tires several years ago, the workers keep track of when a car wins using a tire they built.
“There is a lot to be excited about at Darlington this weekend,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Not only is the Cup race called the ‘Goodyear 400,’ it’s throwback weekend for the sport, we are running our ‘Blue Streak’ sidewall design and, with the abrasive track surface, tires are always a story. As far as the racing is concerned, tire management will be a factor. Drivers that are better at managing their tires early will be able to make up track position later in a run. The high wear element also highlights the team aspect of Cup racing, as the pit crews will be busy with four-tire stops all afternoon.”
Goodyear will once again replace the yellow “Eagle” logo on the sidewalls of its racing tires with a vintage “Blue Streak” design. The Blue Streak tires will include white Goodyear lettering and a white logo that reflect the design of NASCAR tires used in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
“Goodyear is one of the most iconic brands in the history of motorsports, so we are proud to name our spring NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway the Goodyear 400,” said Darlington President Kerry Tharp. “Goodyear has been a part of many monumental moments in Darlington Raceway’s storied history. We look forward to writing a new chapter with Goodyear as part of the Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR.”