In the long list of costs that are involved in running a NASCAR car and team, one of the standout figures comes from the tires. NASCAR teams all make use of the same type of tire, which is all part of the “stock car” racing experience. The official supplier of tires right now at the time of writing is Goodyear.
NASCAR tires can cost 350 to 500 dollars per tire. However, they are custom made for the tracks and cars and optimized for performance. Where the real expense comes from is the potential number of tires that could be used in a race. Up to 16 sets per team could amount to more than 25,000 dollars per race.
How much do NASCAR tires cost? Per race? Per season? The numbers might surprise you, but at any rate you’ll find it interesting just how much these round rubber contraptions cost teams, and just how many are used during the course of a race and a season. These ideas and more are what we’re exploring in this article.
It’s everything you wanted to know about NASCAR tire expense!
We mentioned above that Goodyear is the sole supplier of NASCAR tires, but why is that? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to allow a bit of market force to take place? Goodyear is no stranger to the world of NASCAR.
The two have had an association going back to 1969, but it was in 1997 that NASCAR and Goodyear signed their contract that allowed the latter to become sole supplier for the main NASCAR series. It has helped the Goodyear plant in Akron, Ohio go into overdrive, producing up to 100,000 tires per year just for NASCAR.
The tires themselves are Goodyear Eagle Radical Race tires. For the 6th-generation vehicles launched in 2022, these tires feature 18-inch bead diameter tips, as well as additional tread compounds to improve traction, and no inner liners. Before 2022, the tires had always been 15-inch models.
Each tire costs the team anywhere from $350 to $500, making a full set from $1,400 to $2,000 in total. When you remember that there could be as many as 10 pit stops during a race, sometimes even more, and teams are given up to 16 sets of tires per race, then the total budget per-race budget for tires is about $20,000.
It does vary from race to race, of course, but that tends to be what it works out at on average, and that’s what the top teams budget for each race.
The per-race number for investment on tires seems excessive, but the fact is that these tires are hand-crafted in Goodyear’s Akron, Ohio plant, and are thus not in the same league as ordinary tires that are mass produced for passenger cars.
The level of engineering that goes into producing a track-friendly tire is far greater, with high speeds, sudden maneuvers and more to factor into the mix. The cost of $350-500 per tire actually doesn’t seem so high when you really think about it, but the number is simply driven higher because of the sheer number of tires that are needed to keep cars safe on the track. Each one only lasts for about 100 miles, assuming that nothing else goes wrong on the day.
Even the amount of money spent on tires for one car in a single race can be enough to make some people’s eyes water, but it’s really when you see the costs over a full season that they start to properly sink in. With a budget of $20,000 per race, and 36 races in the seasons, teams need to ensure they have at least $720,000 per season, give or take some contingency money for if and when things go wrong on race day.
Each team is allowed up to 16 sets of tires per race, not all of which may be used, but those tires still come into the teams budgets if they’re used in the lineup. Let’s say a team uses its full allotment over the course of a 36-race season, that comes to a total of 64 tires per race, or 2,304 tires for the season. Now take that number and multiply it across all the different teams and drivers, and you end up with about 100,000 tires per year.
One word has been interestingly absent from our tire story so far, and that’s “buy” or any of its synonyms such as purchase or procure. This is because technically the NASCAR teams are not buying their tires from Goodyear at all, but rather leasing them.
The money NASCAR is investing into tires therefore is purely on the use of the tires and not on any other aspect, all of which have to be handled by Goodyear. Some teams do get their Goodyear tires from other third-party suppliers, but this is not the standard or typical arrangement.
The total per-race cost of a NASCAR vehicle is up to $400,000 at the top end of the series. We’ve mentioned that the tires cover about $20,000 of that cost, but that clearly only forms a small portion of the overall costs. Below is a rundown of some other important costs involved in running a NASCAR vehicle and team each race:
- Engine and gearbox – The engine alone costs between $60,000 and $150,000 to prepare for each race
- Chassis – The chassis usually costs between $70,000 and $120,000, and is absolutely critical to the safety of the driver and car
- Fire suits – These usually run to about $400,000 per season, with $2,500 in cleaning costs needed in between races
- Travel – Each race requires a team to get all its people and gear there, a feat that takes up another $150,000 in the annual budget
Looking at these things, tires are neither the smallest nor the largest expense, but no one can disagree that investing in the right number of tires is a calculation that no team can afford to get wrong.
The cost of NASCAR tires alone makes the eyes water, but as we highlighted above these are no ordinary tires. These are custom made for the car, the drivers and even the track being raced at that week. At 400 dollars a pop expensive as it is it becomes understandable for custom made tires.
The only issue is travelling at 200 Miles an Hour puts some pressure on those tires and they have to be changed at lot, that’s where the real cost mounts up, not just tin the cost per tire but the amount that can be used in a race!