Drew Walters is the tire guy for Lucas Oil Late Model Series driver Gregg Satterlee
Drew Walters (no relation), isn’t laking in the passion department. He’s been working on dirt cars in some fashion for the previous 20 years. It’s always been his dream to go full-time racing in some fashion, he’s there.
In this case, he’s buried in the hauler of the #22 which is piloted by Gregg Satterlee. The Pennsylvania team has 56 races scheduled on their dirt racing tour. Coming from PA, that’s a ton of miles logged per year.
Tire safety has been on my mind recently. First, Earl Pearson Jr had a rim crack which netted an exploding tire and a hospital visit for JC Wright. A week later, Brad Loyet had similar issue which resulted in broken bones.
Before that, there were sporadic tire issues throughout 2017. Such as Bloomquist and crew forgetting about the chuck sitting on a tire. That particular tire exploded and blew off the side of their loaned trailer. That one was probably the worst explosion. Luckily nobody was injured.
Drew Walters is one of the select few that do this for a living. He tours the national dirt late model scene with the #22. Tire prep is his business.
There’s been a lot of tire issues recently. What do you guys do to be safer or as safe as possible?
“Well, with what’s going on recently, I don’t know if it’s so much a tire issue. Maybe a rim, I don’t know a whole lot of the info.”
Both of recent one’s I’m referring to were the rim. But, I’ve seen tire issues in the past too.
“It definitely is dangerous. I accept that and inherit the risk. It’s what I do. It’s my job. I love doing it and I’ll accept it.”
“These guys strap into these cars week in and week out. They inherit that risk as well. I’m careful, I do certain procedures that lessens that risk.”
What are those? I’d be curious to hear.
“When you’re seating a bead or something and you got a tire that blows out. Just where you have your arms. Try to not necessarily have your arm in the rim. We have chucks that stay on the valve stem, that why I don’t need my hands in it.”
I’ve seen a few of these air chucks. It basically allows you to lock the hose to the rim. Then, the chuck itself is mounted 2-4 feet away from the tire. So, you can stand back a few feet and air it up without touching the tire or the rim.
“What I usually do, if I have a beadlock rim or something, I’ll have the beadlock facing down. I’ll put the chuck on it, put the air hose to it. I’ll lift up on the tire really quick, get it to start to seat then I’ll just back away a little bit.”
“Really, if it blows on that beadlock side with it faced down it’s only going to come up 5 inches or something. I’ve never had one do it. Just because I like to take my time, when I can on that kinda stuff.”
“A lot of it is, with certain rules and stuff, when we gotta run a particular tire on the left rear but we’re trying to meet a stagger. Sometimes you gotta blow them up, stretch them and let them sit for awhile.”
“Sometimes you gotta groove them with that amount of air pressure. And that’s why I like to take my time. I don’t wanna pop one and have one explode on me.”
But, you mount them to something under that circumstance right?
“Oh yeah, I have some of the best equipment any tire guy could ask for. I have a stand that I have up front in the trailer. Then, I also have something outside of the trailer.”
“The one on the outside is motorized for grinding. The one on the inside is just so I can groove and sipe — Because we have A/C in the truck and it’s real nice on hot days to be able to do it inside.”
“If someone needs to chip in. Or if we need to get something done really quick and I’m running behind, we can have two different guys, if need be. Robby, if he needs to knock one out with me, we just have that option.”
I see people talking about cages for tires. Does that even work for a tour like this? Because this tour is like a non-stop fire drill. Even for me, on the media side. I imagine for you guys, it’s even worse.
“Well, I try. When we’re home or when we have some down time to take my time and be safe about it. There’s some times where you can’t. I’m just very cautious of what I’m doing and what’s going on. I don’t just put a chuck on the tire, put air in it and walk away. I stay within range. That way if a situation starts happening, maybe I can do something about it.”
“The cages… Working in the automotive industry, we had cages there too. It is a good safety feature. Something maybe more teams — Maybe we need to look at.”
“I don’t have any experience with one. I don’t personally use one. But, it’s definitely a good idea. Maybe it’s something to look at. I’ve never had one go bad, that’s not saying it can’t happen.”
“It’s something to maybe look at down the road. If it continues being an issue.”
I’m thinking about wearing a helmet as I walk the pit area.
“You just gotta be conscious of what you’re doing. When we’re home, I try to get everything rady, as much done as I can. So, we’re ready before we go. That way you’re not rushing. If something does come up you can still take a little bit more time than you normally would.”
“You gotta be able to do it and do it the right way. That way nobody else gets hurt. But, there’s inherit risk with everything. You just gotta be willing to risk it and I am.”