It happens before every NHRA national drag racing event but few people ever see it.
The work is completed before teams arrive at the race track, but those teams would sure know if the work was not done.
It is the first step toward a key part of tuning the chassis to the racing conditions and yet you never hear about it.
“Our guys get there early and they do a lot of work before the teams or fans ever see them,” said Goodyear’s Bryce Jones.
Prior to every NHRA national event, Goodyear’s tire supply and a group of technicians arrive at the track two days before the racing starts. They set up the Goodyear area – the mounting equipment, balancing equipment and various tools – around the Goodyear haulers and open for business.
That’s when they begin the crucial work with the D2681 tires used by NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car teams. Goodyear technicians inflate the tires to 20 psi on an inflation stand that does not require the tires to be mounted on a wheel. Then the technicians leave the tire at 20 psi for 60 seconds before lowering the pressure down to seven psi.
With the pressure lowered, a Goodyear tech will measure the circumference of the tire and note it with a special crayon-like marker before letting the remaining air out of the tire, removing the tire from the inflation stand and returning the tire to the hauler.
The variable nature of the bias-ply tire means that teams will have a range of sizes to choose from around the typical 115-inch circumference. That range is sometimes as small as 113 inches and sometimes as large as 118 inches. Some teams prefer what are called ‘short’ tires (those with a marginally smaller circumference) while others look for so-called ‘big’ tires. The choice is predicated upon chassis tuning decisions made by individual teams.
A quarter of an inch, even an eighth of an inch, can make a significant difference in the tuning of the engine, clutch and chassis. The tire specialists for the teams are very particular about tire selection.
Dan Kissling, of Competition Tire East, said, “We do this to all the Top Fuel and Funny Car tires, approximately 200, on Tuesday and Wednesday before the race.”
The work is heavy, exacting labor. The technical knowledge and trackside experience that Kissling and others like him put to effect help drag racing teams get the best use out of their tires.
The process is an example of the hidden work that goes into Goodyear’s position as the exclusive tire provider for the NHRA’s Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock categories.