The 2008 NASCAR season was not a good year for Goodyear.
Its most notable debacle came during the 2008 Brickyard 400 when officials were forced to throw out caution flags every 10 laps or so due to the tires exploding. By the time the race was over, every single tire that Goodyear had brought to the track for the weekend had been used and was deemed no longer usable. That Cup Series outing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is considered to be the worst Brickyard 400 in the race's 26-year history. Talk about an absolute PR nightmare for Goodyear.
But, the Ohio-based manufacturing company actually had to deal with bad publicity a couple months before the late July Cup race. The 2008 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March was the fourth race on the 2008 Cup schedule and marked the first time that Tony Stewart would absolutely trash Goodyear in a post-race interview.
Despite finishing second in the Atlanta race, Stewart took his time in front of the mic to blast Goodyear for not being able to "build a tire that's worth a crap."
"That's the most pathetic racing tire I've ever been on in my professional career," Stewart said. "They exited out of Formula One. They exited out of the IRL. They exited out of CART. They exited out of World of Outlaws. And there's a reason for that, because Goodyear can't build a tire that's worth a crap. So, if I were Goodyear, I'd be really embarrassed about this weekend and what they brought us here. It didn't keep us from winning the race, and how we got to second, I don't know."
"I'm really proud of our guys on the team and really proud of their pit stops, but it was ridiculous to have to race on a tire like this today. Not at this form of racing, If they can't do any better than that, they ought to just pull out of this sport and save us all a bunch of headaches, 'cause I guarantee you Hoosier or Firestone or somebody could come in a do a lot better job than what they're doing right now."
A few days later, Stewart met with Goodyear officials to discuss his comments and what could be done to fix things in the future. While Stewart apologized to "to the people who work in the factories and the union workers at Goodyear," he didn't back down from taking the company to task.
"I don't want to hear what they're doing, I don't want to hear what they want to do, I don't want to hear what they're planning on doing," Stewart said. "I just want to see what happens and see what the end result of that is. It was a good meeting, but at the end of the day, it's up to Goodyear to make it right. If having this meeting helps to make things better down the road, then this meeting was a success."
Well, as it turns out, things didn't get "better down the road." At least not immediately. About a year later, Goodyear found itself in Stewart's crosshairs once again following practice for the 2009 Daytona 500. This time, it was after Ryan Newman blew a tire and spun out in front of Stewart, wrecking them both in the process. Stewart took the subsequent interview opportunity not to bash his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate but to once again launch a full-scale verbal assault against Goodyear.
"It's just frustrating because the gold-and-blue down there [Goodyear] are the cause of another deal," Stewart said. "I'm just so tired of talking about Goodyear, it's ridiculous. I'm just over it."
When it came to talking things over with Goodyear officials, Stewart was much more apprehensive about the prospect than he had been the first time around at Atlanta.
"Don't get them anywhere near me," Stewart said. "Don't bring them anywhere close; don't let them come close. I don't want anything to do with them."
Clearly, there was a big time respect issue between Stewart and the folks over at Goodyear, who were thankfully able to smooth things over with the three-time Cup champ, even if it did take several months. Ahead of the 2009 Brickyard 400, where disaster had occurred just a year earlier, Goodyear tapped Stewart and several other drivers to test their tires ahead of the race. Apparently, the tire company had done enough to finally earn Stewart's respect.
The relationship between Stewart and Goodyear has certainly been bumpy, but today they're a match made him heaven. In fact, Stewart doesn't use Hoosier or Firestone tires for the cars in the Superstar Racing Experience. He's a Goodyear guy. Funny how the times change, isn't it?
MORE: Brian France Once Put Tony Stewart in His Place, and the 3-Time Champ Actually Agreed With Him
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