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How Long do NASCAR Tires Last? You won’t believe this!

Tyres are the only part of a race car that makes contact with the track surface, and how effectively the driver manages their condition throughout the race determines how many laps they can stay with the pack before needing to duck for pit road.

NASCAR races might look easy on the tyres, but with races lasting hundreds of miles and scarce opportunities for drivers to get ahead of their rivals outside of pit stops and multi-car pileups, maximizing tyre conservation amidst the chaos is crucial to surviving until the end of the race.

2022, with the arrival of the NextGen Cup Series car, has brought about numerous changes, from sequential ‘F1’ transmissions to a new chapter in tyre and wheel regulations. By this point, virtually all tyre and car performance data collected from the previous Gen 6 car’s time should be disregarded as new records are already being set with the updated car specs.

NASCAR-wheels-and-tires

Who supplies tyres for NASCAR?

Goodyear produces tailor-made tyre compounds to cope with the speedways, superspeedways, dirt ovals, and road courses for each round of the season. Race weekends might offer racing teams the option to choose from several tyre compounds, with the potential to experiment with different setups and strategies.

The Goodyear Eagle 18-inch radial tyres used in this season’s Cup Series action are an inch-and-a-half wider than last year’s tyre, with a lower profile to hug the new forged aluminium rims. Although Goodyear is not the only tyre manufacturer involved in the evolution of stock cars in the NASCAR series, they are the only manufacturer with a tried-and-tested tyre to meet the demands of the new 2022 car, producing radial tyres for an 18-inch wheel.

NASCAR tyres vs. road car tyres

Part of the reason NASCAR opted to increase the wheel and tyre size to 18 inches for the current NextGen cars was to make them more relevant to roadgoing models, aiming to grab the attention of millions of worldwide fans who own and drive cars and trucks daily.

This year’s Goodyear tyres are radial, like many road cars, but they are filled with nitrogen rather than air. Nitrogen-filled tyres result in fewer changes to tyre pressure due to external factors like heat or moisture.

Road cars must legally have a tread pattern, which helps provide grip in diverse conditions and offers a long lifespan compared with a Cup Series race tyre. Stock car tyres don’t have any tread grooves cut into them to create the largest possible contact patch with the track.

The 18-inch Goodyear Eagle tyre was new for the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022, but as a project, Goodyear has conducted over 30 real track simulations spanning over three years to test and develop the perfect tyre compound for each event.

The secrets learned from the development that went into the new Cup Series tyres have been passed down to those designing road cars to offer a fresh new road tyre that shares DNA with the super-fast cars hurtling down the speedway on race day.

Tire compounds in the NASCAR Cup Series

What makes NASCAR unique from any other motorsport is how the tyres are treated side-to-side, in contrast to the conventional front-to-rear treatment seen in other forms of motor racing. This allows teams to only replace the tyres needed. Changing half the tyres costs half the time, meaning less time lost on the track.

Road courses with lots of turns and heavy braking zones might require softer rubber compounds to give drivers faster handling and gripper stopping power to post fast lap times. On speedways and superspeedways, Goodyear might supply a harder range of tyres to offer drivers a greater tyre lifespan.

Factors that affect NASCAR tire wear

The lifespan of a set of tyres depends on many factors:

  • The smoothness of turning and braking
  • Particles and debris
  • Track temperature
  • Air temperature
  • Lap length

When drivers have to push harder to either attack or defend, they might push the tyre beyond its limits, degrading in quality faster, often predominantly on one side of the car. Longer laps found on superspeedways might see tyres last between 12 and 16 laps with this year’s NextGen car. On speedways with a lap distance of around a mile in length, drivers can drive for over 30 laps before needing to stop for a new set.

Pitting for new tyres

When a driver enters a pit road to get fresh tyres, the team bosses may decide to change only one side of the car. With only five members of the pit crew permitted to set foot on the pit road, a lot of teamwork is required to ensure the car gets back out on track as fast as possible without losing positions.

The tyres are changed by a pair of pit crew members working alongside each other and a tyre carrier working in harmony with them to offer up tyres without delay. One of the tyre changers can also be seen taking care of jacking duties while working on a tyre with their partner.

Wheels are swiftly removed from the car when it stops in the box, with a tyre changer buzzing the air ratchet on the single lug nut rapidly. When 2 of the car’s tyres are being changed, one pair of tyre changers will handle the job, but when a 4-tire pit stop is required, two pairs of tyre changers might hop over the pit wall to get the job done faster.

Gen 6 tyre vs 2022 NextGen tyre

The previous Gen 6 cars used steel rims with 15-inch tyres. One of the many changes on this year’s NextGen is the change from 15-inch steel rims to 18-inch BBS forged aluminium rims. With larger rims comes a lower profile tyre – that’s a smaller distance measured from the wheel rim to the outer surface of the tyre.

When a car is designed to use low-profile tyres, it’s often with the intention of increasing responsiveness, giving the driver greater confidence to push the car harder. Low-profile tyres might offer greater stability and the potential for cars to reach and maintain higher speeds than before.

In this year’s Daytona 500, we already saw apparent flaws in the new tyre approach, with Kaz Grala and Justin Haley losing a wheel while going flat-out. Yet the loss of a wheel didn’t stem from a collision or fault in the design but rather a technical issue with securing the new single lug nut design of the 18-inch rims.

For the single lug nut design to properly secure the wheel, the wheel must be positioned correctly, allowing a securing pin to be introduced and fully inserted. Perhaps even more worrying is the tyre that came loose from the wheel by itself—flying across the lawn on its own accord.

Conclusion

Tires are a big talking point in the Cup Series this year, and now you know exactly why. The tremendous amount of work that went into creating the whole range of tyres is already paying off, blessing us with edge-of-the-seat races and faster pit stops than ever before.

And with teams and drivers working together to stay high or go low throughout the race, the way the tyres are worn this year will show us a new trick or two from the highly capable NextGen.