It’s race day at Talladega. Excitement peaks, drivers pace, and fans settle in for 188 laps of high-speed physicality. The thrill comes standard. But there’s another often overlooked standard attached to every one of your favorite drivers’ souped-up cars: Goodyear tires. Yellow-lettered Goodyear Eagle tires, to be exact. And they’re not going anywhere.
Since 1997, Goodyear has supplied the best drivers in the world with the performance tread they need to stay safe at up to 200 MPH. NASCAR is a multibillion dollar industry fueled by speed, endurance, and the best auto technology in the world. All three of NASCAR’s top racing divisions use Goodyear tires, solidifying a connection to high-speed superiority since Henry Ford first slipped Goodyears onto his club-sponsored car over 100 years ago.
And as #20 Matt Kenseth, #48 Jimmie Johnson, and the rest of the 43 drivers both lucky and skilled enough to be able to speed legally every weekend will tell you, they are all only as good as the tires they ride on. These tires are the best – but being the best doesn’t come easy.
A history of innovation
Goodyear’s racing stronghold is based on success. They work closely with NASCAR at Goodyear’s Akron headquarters and out on the track to find the best tire formula for each race. It’s a precise science – Goodyear places barcodes on each tire that when scanned provide the exact history and specifications of each ever-evolving compound. Tire technology moves as fast as the cars on the track, so there’s no time to sit around and enjoy the spoils of success.
The numbers game
Each year, Goodyear supplies over 100,000 hand-made tires for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Truck series events in 11 different models to best suit the track type, distance, and weather conditions; the only constant being the famous wingfoot logo spinning circles underneath the vehicles. Each tire rolled out of the factory is identified by the builder who created it.
Each team also has a tire specialist whose specific job is to take on tire duty at the track. Taking care of each team’s assigned 40 tires, the specialist works closely with the team and driver to dissect what works, and what doesn’t.
From track to traffic
Whether a given team comes in first or ‘other’ on the track, consumers are the real winners. Those of us who are limited to more pedestrian speeds are granted all the translatable technology invested on the track without the time, sweat, and spins track racers experience when meticulously testing new technologies on varying surfaces and environments. And while it seems obvious that all the time and money spent on racing research would translate to our daily commute, the inverse is also true. For example, Goodyear introduced Multi-Zone Tread Technology for passenger tires a few years ago. This design employs two different tread patterns on the same tire face to optimize both traction and wear. Multi-Zone Tread Technology made its NASCAR debut at the ultra-fast Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day Weekend 2013.
Race tires vs. real-world tires
Is it possible to take these racing tires and attach them to your own commuter car? Not very easily. There are several distinct differences between the tires on your vehicle right now, and those attached to Kyle Busch’s #18 car.
For starters, NASCAR drivers and their crews are able to calculate scientifically which tires they’ll use according to the track conditions going in to each race. We are not so lucky. Varying weather conditions, challenging road conditions, and a lot less changing mean that daily drivers have very different tire needs. If you look at a NASCAR Eagle or similar track-specific tire, you’ll notice that the tread surface is very flat and smooth, with none of the deep grooves you see on your average street tire. This is because racing tires’ biggest job is to grip the track surface. This is also why the fast cars have a much bigger “footprint” – the amount of tread that touches the surface at any given time.
The downfall of racing tires is a wet surface. Races are stopped when precipitation slickens the track, because without tread grooves, there is no water evacuation – which would make rainy races look like the Ice Capades.
Another interesting difference is what’s inside the tires. NASCAR tires are filled with nitrogen instead of air, because of the gas’s increased stability under the extreme temperatures experienced during a race. This ensures that tire temperature remains consistent, even at temps of up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also important to note, each race tire is designed to last just 100 miles, or the equivalent of a tank of gas, whereas road tires should get you safely from A to B and back again for about 60,000 miles.
Enough talk. Let’s drive!
Want some wing-tipped performance tires of your own? Here are a few of Goodyear’s best street-approved Eagle tires, available any time from TireBuyer.com.