Staggering Difference: Truck Fleets and Racing are Vastly Different, Strangely Similar - Tire Review Magazine

Staggering Difference: Truck Fleets and Racing are Vastly Different, Strangely Similar

Many fleet operators still maintain that truck tires represent the second (to fuel) largest operating expense in their budget.

This “truism” seems pretty amazing, considering the tremendous advances made in radial tire technology that have led to longer treadlife (original and retread), improved casing durability and much better resistance to injury. And it is surprising, given that new-tire prices aren’t much different from levels paid in the 1970s.

But this alleged fact is also key to understanding why the most knowledgeable and diligent maintenance managers spend considerable time and effort in refining programs for optimum tire selection and maintenance. When changes in their tire programs do occur, they tend to be evolutionary since the consequences of missteps can be very large.

Most commercial tire dealers appreciate the differences between consumer and commercial markets. One of the most distinguishing is that many – but certainly not all – consumer purchases are impulse based, or are at least decisions influenced by third-party information sources, such as buff magazines or advertising programs.

Commercial customers, however, tend to take much smaller steps before committing to changes in brands or even tread patterns. Most tend to understand that even small changes in tire selection, usage requirements or equipment configurations can affect overall lifecycle tire costs. Still, they are not likely to embrace change quickly.

The fact is tires play key roles in the performance of many types of rolling stock, regardless of equipment type and operating conditions. Tires are the only physical connection – transmitting driving, braking and cornering forces – between the vehicle and the roadway.

The Racing Parallel

Any pneumatic-tire-shod vehicle also relies on its tires as a major component affecting overall handling. This is most obvious in racecar applications, and especially on dirt-track sprint cars.

Paul Lauritzen, operations manager of dirt-track racing for Goodyear, says that many tire designers consider dirt-track cars to be the most pure, blood-and-guts application, one that clearly defines the relationship between vehicle handling and tractive capabilities and tire design variables. There is, therefore, considerable transfer of the lessons learned and technology developed on dirt tracks to other race tire and car applications.

Seasoned drivers in a variety of racing series consider high-winged sprint cars to be the pinnacle of driver control and chassis setup. These methanol-fueled, solid axle, torsion bar-suspended racers develop 800 hp-plus but weigh only about 1,200 pounds. They are push started and use in-out (direct drive) boxes instead of transmissions.

A typical sprint car competing in the World of Outlaws (WoO) series ( requires at least three different tire sizes and a fourth in reserve for stagger adjustments. Consequently, there are also three different wheel sizes and at least three inflation pressure settings.

Front tires are typically sized at 26.5×8.0-15 fitted to 8- to 9-inch wheel widths. Right rears are 33.0×17.0-15 fitted to 17- to 18-inch wheel widths, and left rears are commonly 29.0×14.5-15 fitted to 14- to 15-inch wheels.

Differentials are non-existent, and all driving torque is delivered through splined spools that are, in reality, permanently locked axles. The diameter difference between the left and right drive tires creates a “stagger” (defined as a difference in rolling diameter) that causes the car to turn left under acceleration. This is handy because dirt-track races are really one long left-hand turn.

Short, sticky (high adhesion) tracks call for setups of up to 17 inches of stagger, while longer, slicker tracks typically use 8- to 10-inch stagger combinations.

Track speeds and banking also affect this combination. The ultimate goal for the driver is to accelerate constantly through both straight and curved portions of the track, using only small throttle setting adjustments to control rear axle slide (oversteer), fine tuning the direction of travel for passing maneuvers or avoiding collisions.

In a WoO race, the cars rarely travel straight ahead. Instead, they are in constant oversteer or drift. Second, they are scary fast. Most cars accelerate sufficiently to lift the front tires, thereby losing conventional steering control when exiting turns two and four of short and mid-size oval tracks.

Pressures and Variables

Tire pressures are also critical to sprint-car handling. Typical inflation specs are unique to each of the four wheel positions and range from approximately 12 psi in the right front and 10 psi in the left front, to 8 to 8.5 psi in the right rear and from 4 to 4.5 psi in the left rear.

Pressure bleeders are normally installed in both rear tires to ensure that inflation stays constant as heat buildup, tire cavity expansion and track temperatures rise or fall. No inner tires or tubes are used in this series, so a tire pressure loss is completely disabling. Two components used rarely, if ever, during a WoO race: brakes and left front tires. Cars have finished, even won, races without the benefit of either.

In the world of sprint cars, tire combinations, suspension setups and a host of other controlled variables may be changed on any given hot summer evening in search of an all-important win. Sometimes, a team will walk closer to the edge just because they “feel lucky” that evening.

Track conditions – top layer moisture content, compaction and underlayment hardness – are examined by probing with screwdrivers before making final chassis setups for feature races. Gas shock absorbers on each of the chassis corners can be individually adjusted by the driver as track conditions change during a race.

Strange Bedfellows

Why go on about dirt-track racing? Well, perhaps to reiterate the obvious: Fleet customers don’t have the luxury of racecar-type, trial-and-error experimentation – or even on-the-fly adjustments – in modern commercial vehicle operations. Their businesses can ill-afford component failure that leads to a “DNF.”

These are key reasons why fleet customers seem so slow in making changes in vehicle components – like tires – or in maintenance preferences. Like racecar drivers, they fear that the slightest change will drop them to the back of the pack or, worse, leave them spinning out into the proverbial wall.

Decisions about tire/wheel selection, maintenance and servicing can have important effects on the ultimate success of any trucking operation. You, in effect, have to be your fleet customers’ crew chief and pit crew, applying your knowledge and the right products and service to control their tire budgets.

Wise choices about the components that comprise any fleet’s second-most significant operating expense can surely make a staggering difference – hopefully in the right direction.

You May Also Like

EVs, Fleet Management to Aid Commercial Tire Growth

The post-COVID market is bouncing back, which will drive market trends in 2023.


When I was a child, rollercoasters were an awe-inspiring combination of power and adrenaline, a towering marvel of speed and terror to be gazed upon with either great anticipation or great fear– sometimes both. I have always loved knowing how things work, and even at a young age, I appreciated the mechanics of it all: the slow, steady, deliberate creaking of the steep climb, and the unseen forces just out of reach methodically pulling riders toward the unknown.

Last-Mile Delivery Tires Set to Outpace Long-Haul Tire Volumes

Prior to the pandemic, the last-mile delivery (LMD) market was booming. So, when COVID-19 hit, and newly-homebound consumers placed even more online orders — retailers like Amazon shortened delivery times to two days, one day, or even same-day services — and the segment exploded. Related Articles – Goodyear Unveils 90% Sustainable Tire – Goodyear Introduces

Global Tire Manufacturer Ralson Enters US TBR Market

Global tire manufacturer Ralson is entering the U.S. commercial tire market with a new medium/heavy truck tire manufacturing facility and a team of veteran American sales and marketing tire professionals. Ralson debuted its products for the US with its American team at the 2022 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Related Articles – Maxam Tire Completes

Michelin Releases Agilis HD Z as New Urban and Regional Tire

Michelin North America has released the Michelin Agilis HD Z 19.5 in two sizes to offer fleets with light and medium-duty vehicles durable, long-lasting tires optimized for the stresses of urban and regional environments. The Agilis HD Z 19.5-in. tires will replace the Michelin XZE in two current sizes (225/70R19.5 LRG and 245/70R19.5 LRH) in

Yokohama Tire Launches the 716U UWB Regional Drive Tire

Yokohama Tire’s newest commercial tire – the 716U ultra wide-base – is a weight-savings drive tire that carries more profitability for fleets, the company says. It is available now in the US in size 455/55R225. Related Articles – BKT Highlights Ridemax Radial Floatation Tire for AG, Tank Trucks and Spreaders – CEAT Specialty Tires Increases


Other Posts

Vredestein Launches New Pinza H/T in US

Vredestein Tires has launched its new Pinza H/T line of tires, a highway all-season tire designed for trucks, SUVs and crossovers. According to Vredestein, The Pinza H/T has unique features that keep the comfort of the driver in mind. Related Articles – Goodyear Adds Wrangler HT Tire to Light Truck Lineup – Comparing Trends in

Vredestein Pinza H_T
Goodyear Adds Wrangler HT Tire to Light Truck Lineup

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has added the Goodyear Wrangler Workhorse HT to its Wrangler light truck tire lineup. Goodyear says its Wrangler Workhorse HT provides all-season traction, a confident ride and the strength to go the extra mile. Related Articles – BKT Tires Launches Agrimaxfactor Tire For Tractors – Michelin’s Enviro System Unveils

Comparing Trends in All-Season and All-Weather Tire Segments

When it comes to all-season and all-weather tires, consumer expectations have been a driving force in both segments, affecting everything from OE fitments and sales trends to tire performance. Essentially, consumers want the convenience of not having to swap tires every winter, as well as the safety and performance provided by capable all-weather tires, according

All season all weather vredestein hypertrac
Continental Debuts Enthusiast-Driven ExtremeContact Sport 02

From timed autocross laps to drifting on a skid pad and mastering knee-jerk braking and turns on a raceway, dealers, influencers and members of the media were treated to a crash course in performance racing while testing out Continental’s newest UHP summer tire, the ExtremeContact Sport 02. Related Articles – Mickey Thompson Unveils 42-, 44-in.