Key Takeaways

  • Slick tires are used for professional racing.
  • Slick tires have no tread on the contact surface area.
  • Racing slicks are usually made of a very soft rubber compound.
  • It’s illegal to use racing slicks on a street legal car.
  • Nascar does use racing slicks.

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Slick tires are an interesting take on the standard tire. They are usually used for racing. But exactly, what are slicks tires?

Slick tires are used for professional racing. They have no tread on the surface face. This lack of tread maximizes the contact patch of the tire with the road surface. Slicks provide excellent handling and grip. Cars in Formula 1, MotoGP and other racing events usually use slicks.

I’m a mechanic with five years experience diagnosing and repairing vehicles. I received my degree in automotive repair and am ASE certified. I receive training on the latest released automotive technology. And I repair vehicles with the most up-to-date tools and technology.

Table of Contents

Racing Slicks

Racing slicks are tires used on cars during racing events. Cars that usually race in events such as Formula 1, MotoGP, Touring Car Racing, sports car racing, and drag racing usually all wear racing slicks. Slicks are specialized tires that maximize a car’s grip to the road.

Unlike traditional tires, racing slicks are made of a very soft rubber compound and do not have any grooves or patterns on their surface. This lack of grooves and patterns allows the tire to maintain maximum contact with the road surface. This added traction improves traction, cornering, braking, and performance.

Because racing slicks have no grooves or patterns, their rolling resistance is almost nothing. This lack of rolling resistance improves a racing slicks speed performance. For example, drag racing slicks add to a car’s overall speed since there is no resistance to overcome.

The lack of grooves in a racing slicks means the tires are less prone to overheating and more resistant to wear and tear. Racing slicks have almost no performance capabilities in wet conditions, since there are no grooves.

In regular tires, grooves in the tread face displace the water, adding grip to the tire during wet conditions. But with slicks, because there are no grooves, this water displacement feature is missing.

Driving on water in slicks is like skating on ice in ice skates. There’s almost no control and hydroplaning is surely to occur. When wet conditions arise, racers switch to a tire with grooved treads in order to have some semblance of control during wet conditions.

There are a number of different types of racing slicks. Not all racing slicks are created equal. For example, there are some racing slicks that are meant for high speed circuits with long straight aways. And there are other slicks meant for tight and technical courses with many corners.

The compound racing slicks are made of can alter as well. For example, if a race is happening in colder climates, a softer rubber compound will be used to improve grip. While in a warmer climate, harder rubber compounds are used to minimize wear and tear.

Does Nascar Use Racing Slicks?

Racing slick tires are usually used in all racing events. But what about Nascar? Well, the answer is, kind of. Nascar does use a type of slick, but Nascar auto racing does use tread patterns on some of their racing tires.

Nascar uses tread patterns on some of their slicks, but not all. It depends on the track that the car is driving on. For example, Goodyear, the official tire sponsor of Nascar has a few slick tires with tread patterns in them.

Goodyear makes a wet track tire meant for all road courses in case of inclement weather. Unlike standard slick tires, a wet track tire has a tread pattern cured into the contact patch of the tire in order to displace water away from the center of the tire while driving on wet surfaces.

There are also some Nascar tracks that have dirt in them like Bristol Motor Speedway. For dirt tracks like these, Nascar runs what’s called a bias ply tire. These tires aren’t slicks at all. They are more closely related to regular street tires and they also have tread blocks.

But for the majority of all other tracks, Nascar uses traditional slicks. Goodyear supplies all tires to Nascar cars. Goodyear slicks are called Goodyear Eagles. They have yellow lettering on the side and are nationally recognizable.

Goodyear slicks have been seen on Nascar vehicles since 1989. Goodyear produces four different types of slicks meant for Nascar racing. Goodyear makes a speedway, intermediate, road course, and short track type of slick. Each one with a different type of chemical compound.

Each Goodyear slick is made in Akron, Ohio, which is the headquarters of Goodyear. Each tire used for Nascar is handmade and has the name of each employee who made the tire stamped into the sidewall. Talk about blowout accountability!

Are Racing Slicks Street Legal?

Racing slicks are typically not legal in most cases, and there are a number of reasons why. Slick tyres are designed for a specific use case, and that use case is on the track, not the road.

The most obvious reason that racing slicks are not street legal is because racing slicks have no tread on them. Tread patterns ensure the safety of drivers during wet conditions and without tread, there would be mayhem on the roads every time it rained.

Racing slicks are usually made out of a softer rubber compound than regular street tires. This softer compound improves handling and performance on the track. But on the other hand, softer rubber will lead to a quicker deterioration rate of the tire, causing you to have to get new tires much quicker.

A slick tire is not designed to handle the stresses of everyday driving such as braking, acceleration, and cornering on city streets or highways. You may be in luck if you wish to use racing slicks during a special event such as a parade or exhibition event, but you most likely will need to get a permit.

Using racing slicks on public roads is typically allowed under very special circumstances and their regular use is typically not permitted. If you are thinking about switching to slick tires instead of using grooved tires, think again, because it’s most likely illegal in your area.

Slick Folding

Racing slicks are prone to a phenomenon called folding. Folding is what happens when a slick undergoes a lot of torque from a stand still position. For example, when a drag racer accelerates the car to 335 mph, the tire sort of folds underneath itself.

The tire gets very deformed and looks like it's falling apart at the seams. If you google “racing slick slow motion”, you will see tons of videos of the tire folding. The folding seems to occur because it’s attempting to transfer the momentum of the engine to the car, before the car is ready.

And the soft rubber that racing slicks use just crumble and cause the tires to fold until equilibrium is reached and the tires even out again.

What Are Slicks Tires?

About The Author

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks has been servicing vehicles since 2012. After completing the automotive studies program at Camden County College, he was awarded an Associates's Degree in Applied Science. His first job was a lube-tech at Jiffy Lube, and is currently an independent B-Technician servicing vehicles for the United States Postal Service. Christopher is ASE certified and loves rebuilding engines.

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