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RADIAL RACERS

Street Legal Slicks

Words and photos by  Wayne Scraba

Over the years, there has been a cycle in race rubber.  Prehistorically speaking, recapped Atlas Bucrons were once the hot ticket.  Then came real drag slicks – dedicated tires designed specifically for racing down the straight and narrow. Soon enough, some classes evolved where a tire with a tread pattern was compulsory.  The cheater slick was born.  The sequence continued, and good old-fashioned slicks became the norm for almost all serious drag race applications.  But then fast street car drag racing blossomed.  Sticky street tire compounds were released.  The tire wars heated up and before long, tire technology made an almost complete circle.  No, we're not back to recaps, but we certainly have a number of extremely capable "cheater slicks" available in today's marketplace.

While this M&H Racemaster tire looks like a conventional street tire at first glance, it's not.  It's a "Drag Radial" tire, or simply stated, a tire designed especially for the burgeoning quickest street car marketplace.  While these tires look like slicks, there are a number of differences between the two types.  Some of the differences are subtle.  Some aren't.

What's the point?  It's simple.  The rules for many categories of street car drag racing mandate a tire that has Department of Transportation (DOT) approval.  Many of the more popular categories mandate radial tires.  DOT drag radials were born.  In these categories, if you show up with slicks, you can't play.  But the DOT requirement also places a heavy burden on the tire manufacturer:  The company has to develop a tire that can effectively cope with an almost obscene amount of horsepower, but at the same time, it must pass a rigid set of requirements laid out by the DOT. 

Matters Of Mass & Compound…

One of the pioneers in drag racing is M&H Racemaster. They were there when Don Garlits tore across the continent on what may have been the first drag race tour.  They were also there when sticky street car tires were more or less invented.  In fact, this writer used some of their bias ply sticky street tires roughly two decades ago.  But I digress.   Because of the mix of requirements, the "street" tires used in street car drag racing might at first glance look like slicks with a couple of grooves cut in them, but they have a number of subtle and not-so-subtle differences.  One issue is weight.  Two factors have an influence on the overall mass of a fastest street car tire, and they're both important.  The first thing one has to keep in mind is the fact a typical fastest street car is quite often heavier than it's true drag race counterpart, even if the dimensions of the tires are identical.  It's not uncommon for an "Outlaw" drag radial racer to tip the scales at a figure that's more than 3,000 pounds.  That same car can have an ultimate performance below 7.50-seconds in the quarter mile.  Think about that for a minute: It wasn’t that long ago that sub-7.50 laps were rare in a Pro Stock racer – and those things tip the scales at 2,350 pounds and have far larger rubber.

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