Supply shortages and production shutdowns in the manufacturing world have impacted prices and availability of all sorts of products in 2020 and into 2021, and a shortage of tires has now had a direct impact at the local race track in Alexandria.
The Viking Speedway announced through its Facebook page on June 29 that it was canceling its scheduled races for Saturday, July 3, citing a lack of available race tires for drivers as a primary reason. The night was set to feature a Late Model special in addition to running the four main classes of Midwest Modifieds, Modifieds, Street Stocks and Super Stocks.
“We have several different places we’ve checked with to see what their availability is on tires,” Viking Speedway board of directors president Justin Anderson said in an interview with the Echo Press on June 30. “They said they won’t get any new tires for two to three weeks. That’s what they’re being told, so I don’t know if we’ll see them or if we won’t see them.”
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The tire shortage in the racing world is part of many products -- such as boats, motors, off-road vehicles and new vehicles -- that are hard to get in a lot of cases.
“I’m a general contractor, so what’s going on is there’s a resin shortage for things like electrical boxes and anything with plastics,” Anderson said. “There’s tire shortages for personal vehicles like your car or pickup. It’s not just us in the racing.”
Resin is a composite blend produced from plants that is used in many products, including for use in making plastics, durable castings and adhesives.
Resin manufacturers were hit with a number of setbacks that started with staffing issues in the production chain during the pandemic and then worsened by weather-related events in the southern United States where much of the production takes place.
“What we’re running into is we’re seeing it with the farm and industrial tires,” Brad Shafer, store manager at Cenex Tire Pros & Auto Care Center in Alexandria, said. “We’re noticing it with tubes, and we’re starting to notice it with some of the valve stems and smaller rubber products, that they’re just not available and that’s where we’re starting to see some big shortages.”
Shafer said he has not run into too many problems yet with not having enough tires on hand for passenger vehicles and light trucks, but he has been warned it’s coming.
“We’ve beefed up our stock because we’ve known about this for a few months,” Shafer said. “There’s some major price increases coming, especially on tires.”
Shortages of additional parts -- such as the inability to get the microchips that control the powertrains and digital systems in vehicles -- have hurt the auto industry and its ability to get new vehicles out to the public. Many manufacturers had to cut shifts or suspend production this year on top of the shutdowns they experienced during the pandemic in 2020.
“There is such a high demand right now for the product and the supply is low because of the workers who were let off because of COVID,” Shafer said. “A lot of the manufacturing plants have not brought enough workers back to keep up with the demand. Part of the demand (for tires) is because there’s not a lot of new vehicles on car dealer lots. The used vehicles they’re buying are so high priced that we’re finding out more and more people are fixing their vehicles.”
An end in sight?
Anderson did not know for sure if the Viking Speedway might have to cancel future events on the track’s schedule due to the tire shortage.
“I think we have to go on a week-by-week basis and see what happens,” Anderson said. “Our governing body is looking at rule changes, but so far they’re kind of being strict on what the current rules are as far as grooving the tires for some of the classes so they could maybe get more life out of them. It’s just a hard deal.”
The Viking Speedway runs under the WISSOTA sanctioning body. Hoosier Racing Tire Corporation, which is owned by Continental, is the official tire of WISSOTA racing.
“Continental is one of my core brands, and what they’re telling me is they are trying to concentrate on their over the road -- the semi tires, the light truck and passenger tires,” Shafer said. “Hoosier tires are not taking precedence over all the other manufacturing aspects.”
The lifespan of racing tires is short lived.
“Some drivers are super hard on their right rears. Others aren’t,” Anderson said. “My son races. I’ve seen where we put a brand new tire on and in 20 laps, it was junk. We’ve done other nights where we’ve run 60, 70 laps on a tire before it’s junk.”
The frequent hot, sunny conditions much of this spring and summer also have an impact. The speedway cited the forecasted temperatures in the mid-90s this Saturday as another reason for canceling this week's races.
“It’s really hard to keep a lot of moisture in the track because the weather hasn’t cooperated,” Anderson said. “You get one that’s super, super dry, it seems like a lot of these tracks in the area get sandier, so it’s like you’re driving on sand paper.”
The Viking Speedway had a low car count of 43 drivers on June 26. Anderson is hopeful Saturday’s cancellation is a one-week break and those car counts can increase if the races get going again starting on July 10.
“Alexandria being a bigger track, a tire is going to get used up faster here than like a Fergus or a Willmar or a smaller track,” he said. “Hopefully we don’t have people not coming just because they’re going to conserve their tires and race on a smaller track where they can get more life out of them. That’s unfortunate, but time will tell and we’ll see what a couple weeks does or next week does with the Hoosier orders and see how it goes.”