BLOUNTVILLE — Kingsport Speedway and Cobra Racing Tires are meeting the tire shortage in weekly short track racing head-on.
The Georgia-based company will become the official tire supplier for the Northeast Tennessee race track. Originally designed for speedway kart racing, Cobra Racing Tires have been proven to be highly competitive after having turned hundreds of laps.
A Cobra tire driven 350 laps on Kingsport Speedway’s abrasive concrete surface was on display Thursday at the Outdoorsman Club off Highway 11W. Cobra’s brand showed little wear compared to what has been found with other racing tires.
The biggest issue has been availability as tracks and series across North America have struggled to get tires for their Late Model cars. It has led to the postponements and cancellations of multiple events.
Kingsport Speedway general manager Vern Deel explained switching tire brands works well with the track’s recent decision to combine its Late Model Stock and Sportsman classes.
“We want to see fair and honest racing,” Deel said. “This tire, coupled with the changing of the classes, lowers the costs for the racers. ... Hopefully, we’re seeing racers buying fewer tires and at a cheaper rate than we’ve previously been able to sell them for.”
Extensive testing of the tires was conducted on Kingsport’s 3/8-mile oval, Anderson (S.C.) Motor Speedway and at other Southeast short tracks. Deel is a believer in the tire’s quality and safety after witnessing the tests first hand.
“We didn’t allow any adjustments on the cars, made the drivers run them as is,” Deel said. “With 350 laps on the tires, they abused them. We told them, ‘Throw at it whatever you’ve got.’ This tire kept taking the abuse and I was really amazed.”
Cobra Racing Tires have a design which gives racers explosive corner speed and a unique rubber compound which should produce better overall racing. Cobra President Chester Hester said he isn’t worried about the tires being too durable and hurting sales. He believes once word is spread it will bring in more participation at the paved tracks.
“It’s a priority to have high-quality tires available and have them well-priced,” Hester said. “We’re about tire development and making them better like we did in the karting industry. We’ve always felt like if you make a tire more durable, more people can race for a longer period of time.
“It doesn’t cut out our business because we sell more tires when more people race. We care about the racing industry and want to see it grow.”
In addition to the speedway, Cobra Racing Tires will continue to be used at the adjacent Kingsport Miniway for the go-kart racing programs.
VENOM RACE TIRES
Also part of Thursday’s announcement, a new company named Venom Race Tires has been formed to become the distributor of Cobra Racing Tires to tracks north of Kingsport. Hester explained his company is also working on tires outside of the Late Model classes.
There were some challenges from making tires for go-karts to developing them for heavy stock cars. However, Hester said he is pleased with the end result.
“We beat our heads against the wall a lot of times and wasted a lot of tires,” Hester said. “At the end of the day, you have to make a tire that’s durable and rolls good. That’s very important to the racers.”