Watching the recent Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum in L.A., a race of 150 laps around the small circuit, I was riveted by the sensory onslaught of high octane fuel, the thunderous roar of these powerful engines, and the frenetic activity of the pit crews. Only on the drive home did I consider the deeper issues: How much fuel was allowed, how many pit crew were permitted and how many tires were used, etc.
NASCAR tires last around 100 miles (or 40 laps at Daytona International Speedway) before they need to be replaced. High speeds, tire heat, and constant turning cause excessive wear in a very short time. At shorter circuits, tires may last around 200 laps: Bristol, Dover, Martinsville, etc.
A NASCAR race is certainly about who gets to hit the checkered flag first, but there is far more to consider going on before and during the race. Knowing a few of these nuances and snippets of information can make all the difference to your race-going experience.
Nothing is left to chance, and the more you can absorb, the more you’ll love NASCAR.
NASCAR Race Tires
Able to produce maximum power outputs of 860–900 hp from their V8 (naturally aspirated) engines,although limited of course, a NASCAR stock car can reach speeds above 200 miles per hour on the longer straightaways. Since the only thing keeping them on the road, and the shiny side up, is about 36 square inches of rubber on each tire, NASCAR tires are under constant scrutiny.
Imagine driving at close to four times the highway speed limit and having to rely on tires, the equivalent of a man’s size 12 shoe, touching the asphalt at each wheel. These four size 12 strips of rubber carry driver and car (weighing around 3500 lbs.) around racetracks for hours. Nuts? That’s exactly what these drivers face every race.
Tire Tweaks For Cornering
Since NASCAR is well known for high-speed cornering, particularly on the shorter circuits like Martinsville, Bristol, and Dover where the race is almost all cornering, it’s vital to have the best setup possible concerning getting through the bends:
- Tire Stagger – this refers to the use of tires of different circumferences at different points on the car
- Tire Pressure – using a lower tire pressure on the inside tires can also assist in bringing the car through the turn quickly and safely. Often the difference from left to right tire is more than 60%
NASCAR Tires Vs. Consumer Tires
The only real similarity between the tires on stock cars and those on your own ride is that both are standard radials, where the cord plies are placed at 90 degrees to the vehicle’s direction of travel. NASCAR tires have to provide incredible traction, maintain their integrity at very high speeds, and be changed at breath-taking speeds by the pit crew while the race is taking place.
Switch To Nitrogen
Most teams switched to Nitrogen instead of air several years ago because it contains less moisture than compressed air. Compressed-air moisture vaporizes as the tires heat up and pressure inside the tires increases, directly affecting the car’s handling. Using Nitrogen instead, teams can more accurately gauge how much the pressure will increase and act accordingly.
NASCAR regulates the compounds – the materials from which a tire is made – for each track. Softer tires are more suitable for tracks with fewer straightaways as the softness helps the tire grip in the turns. The downside is that these softer compound tires don’t last anywhere near as long as the harder compounds. Conversely, harder compounds allow the tire to last longer for the longer races, but less grip is available.
Other influences that affect tire life are the number of turns in a race, tightness of turns, angle of banking, and track surface; NASCAR determines the correct compound required for each racetrack, and teams are obliged to comply. Note that inside tires – the ones inside on the turns – may well have a different compound to outside ones.
Why Are Blowouts Not As Common As One Might Expect?
On tracks longer than one mile, NASCAR regulations require that all tires have an inner tire fitted. With its own air supply, this tire is fitted to the rim, inside the outer tire, and if the main tire blows or shreds, it should remain intact, thus allowing the driver to come to the safest stop possible. Pressure for the inner tire is 12-25 PSI higher than for the outer tire.
Can The Standard Tires Be Used In Rainy Conditions?
Since the normal NASCAR tire looks perfectly smooth to the naked eye, there is no tread to speak of, and these tires provide no traction in the wet. Wet weather tires are then fitted instead, but windscreen wipers must also be added, as the cars don’t normally race with wipers in place. However, on oval tracks especially if rain is likely to continue then the race will be red flagged and either called at that moment or delayed until the rain stops,
How Quickly Can A Pit Crew Change Four Tires In A Race?
In 12 – 14 seconds, a pit crew of seven people can change all four tires and refuel a stock car. Teamwork and precise hand/eye coordination are essential for a pitstop of this nature, and teams practice every aspect of the stop. We have an article below on the fastest pitstops in NASCAR if you want to know more.
How Many Tires Are Permitted To Each Team?
Bear in mind that the race itself is only part of a NASCAR event. Equally important are the practice and qualifying stages, where teams might be allocated eight full sets of tires depending on the race’s length. Take the Daytona 500, for example, at the longer end of the spectrum.
One set of tires is carried over into the race itself, where teams get an added seven sets. Exactly how many are used for the race is determined by the driver and crew, who might leave five or six sets unused. This is usually calculated on driver style, car setup, and the specific track. Understandably, the more aggressive drivers will use more tires on average.
We have many more facts and information articles on NASCAR (and other) tires on the site. you can check out a few below.
NASCAR tires’ lifespan is best calculated at 100 miles per tire. Shorter tracks might give more laps per tire, but they also wear the tires out more quickly, due primarily to increased forces in the turns, and of course the frequency of turns.
The current Clash at the coliseum will not need to change the tired due to the length an dlimited number of laps, however other short tracks will at least require one and usually two pit stops.
Either way, taking care of the 4 tires is something every driver in NASCAR length races learns very quickly, Pit stops are expected and although they take only 12 -14 seconds if done well, the time to enter and exit the pits can put cars close to a lap behind on short tracks, and even on long tracks if something takes longer.
This means although they have 7 or so sets to put on they really want to minimise the time cars come in to change.
The Physics of NASCAR – Diandra Leslie-Pelecky