Why are NASCAR Racing Tires Bald?

Normal tires wear and tear over the course of a year, and if we are lucky, we even need to change out our street car tires more than once or twice a year. Race tires do not last nearly as long, and multiple sets of tires will be used in a single 3-hour race.

The special tires developed for the road conditions a NASCAR driver will encounter are slick tires that grab the road hard, smooth tires that can offer more contact and have no need to shed water on dry race days.

Key Points:

  • NASCAR tires are specialty bald tires because they provide maximum contact with road courses to decrease the chance of crashes.
  • Different types of racing tires are used depending on the weather and the track.
  • Bald tires are not safe for street cars, as the minimum tread is necessary for maximum safety and reliability in real-life driving conditions.

For the manufacturing of these smooth-surfaced tires, NASCAR works with Goodyear, and race teams spend around 20k an event just on tires. Good Year Racing Eagles brand tires are the ones designed for NASCAR and, to ensure consistent contact with road courses regardless of the weather, produce over 18 types of tires over the course of the entire season.

Let’s find out why NASCAR tires have no tread and are bald below. 

Why Do NASCAR Cars Have Treadless Tires?

Called slickers, NASCAR tires have no tread or grooves to make sure 100% of the tire is touching the contact on turns and straight breakaways. On a dry surface with a smooth tarmac surface, these slickers outperform any other tire on the market.

But just in case conditions are not perfect, effective road contact is still a must to avoid crashes, so intermediate tires for dry and wet conditions are available. 

NASCAR tires weigh around 24 lbs each and measure 11.5 inches wide, offering better surface contact on typically dry tracks. Wet weather tires during the rainy season have deeper grooves and threads and are similar-looking tires to the ones on our cars.

These tires are designed to last 40-60 laps or 60 to 80 miles while they rip up and leave rubber along the raceway. Pitstops for tire changes are important to time just right before the outer tire blows, or drivers will lose that stage of the race. 

Racing Tire Types

Throughout the racer season and within different motorsports and race series high, performance tires are sought after and switched in and out. Race car tires need to be durable, have phenomenal grip, and last as long as they can before a change is needed.

Off-road racing will obviously have very different official tires than F1 or NASCAR, but the fundamentals of the tires are the same. Longevity vs. grip, below are some tire choices racers might choose in different scenarios and why. 

Tire TypeBenefitRaces Used In 
SlickersHighest grip levels on dry, smooth roads and allow racers to stick to the track surface while making turns at top speeds These types of tires are used in most NASCAR series that run on ovals and approved road courses, as well as Formula 1 races 
GroovedWhen the road surface is wet or uneven, there is a good chance drivers will put on grooved tires instead of slickers to help keep the rubber in contact with the track and provide extra grip when needed Any series of races where the track conditions have become slick, including dense fog, will require these tires to be used to avoid accidents; even if the return for grip is a reduce the top speed, it still beats crashing on the turns
TreadedSimilar to regular tires, the tire compounds, tire pressure, and tread depth can all be adjusted for safer racing when dry conditions are not presentTreaded tires are mainly used when races are on poorly prepared streets or during times of extreme conditions where the race is set to continue, and super grip is less important as safe water dispersal 

Why are Bare Tires Superior Tires for NASCAR Drivers?

Think about how much you need to slow down in a streetcar to make a turn, 30 or 40 mph max. Now imagine what downforce and grip your tires would need to take that same turn at 180 MPH. Clearly, bald tires that have grip the whole length of the tire and leave sticky rubber grip spots are superior in these conditions.

However, on wet, snowy, or muddy streets, these same tires lacking tread would result in disaster. 

Race teams often lease their tires so they can have a huge surplus of what they need if dry conditions are present or is rainy conditions begin. There are times when the race team will need to put different types of tires on the wheels in the middle of the race, and this may change again if conditions dry up or change again.

The heat produced from the tires revolving at insane speeds also has a huge effect on why tire tread is not needed for most races and why a conventional tire would never work on a race track. 

Are Nascar Tires Street Legal?

No slickers are not street legal as they greatly increase the likelihood of crashes and loss of life. All road officials require a level of tread that is deemed safe for local road and climate conditions, and failing to keep your tires above that minimum puts everyone on the road’s safety at risk.

While bald tires have a higher grip level on dry, smooth roads, real-life driving conditions are unpredictable and frequently dangerous. 

The tread pattern and tread depth found on street cars is determined by tire companies to balance tire life and maximum safety, and road reliability. By using a harder compound, tires will last longer, but by adding softer compounds, the tire tread will be more effective at standing up to normal (spontaneous) road conditions.

Unless your street car is only used for drag racing or dry days, the loss of grip from the entire tire not having contact is probably the best compromise for everyday conditions on the road. But without the need for tire tread or deep tread depth, bald tires, known as slickers, are the most reliable and official tire for NASCAR races as well as most other motorsports.

Leave a Comment