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Drag Radials Vs Slicks | Tire Differences

Created by Jason Konieczny
Last Updated 5/17/2021

For tire selections, we often have questions with which are best for specific driving applications. Check out LMR's Drag Radials Vs Slicks Tire Differences.

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Drag Radials Vs Slicks | Tire Differences - Drag Radials Vs Slicks | Tire Differences

When it comes to tire selections, most people have many questions about which tires are best for drag racing, road racing, or regular driving. Different tread patterns, different rubber compounds, aspect ratios, you name it! Questions like, should I run a racing slick, a drag radial tire, or a street tire for best performance?” come to mind when speaking of which rubber is best to use on your Mustang GT! This article will focus on the main differences between drag radial tires and drag slick tires.

This article will not cover which brands of tires are the best. We understand that people have their opinions of Nitto drag radials, Hoosier drag radials, or even Mickey Thompson tires, and each has its place. We will explore the best situations to run a specific type of drag tire on your Ford Mustang or other muscle car so your car will perform the best and help reduce your 60 ft. times! After your done reading this article, check out our Mustang Tire Size Guide so you can know which tires sizes will fit your year model Mustang.


BIAS PLY TIRE vs RADIAL TIRE

When it comes to the construction of modern tires, they are constructed in two different ways, Bias-Ply tires or Radial tires. Each tire has its benefits and drawbacks so knowing what you need for the right application is paramount! If you select the correct tire, you can increase traction at the starting line and fly down the 1,320 as you would expect! Selecting the wrong tire can lead to frustration and wasted money. Nobody wants that!

Radial tires are constructed with steel belts that connect from one tire bead to the other. This results in a strong, durable tire that can last thousands of miles before needing to be replaced. These also have a stronger sidewall that helps in cornering and are right at home on your daily commuter or even on a Mustang that will see road racing laps.

Now, if your car is strictly going to see starting line time at the drag strip, a Bias Ply tire will be the best set of racing tires that you can install on your high-performance Mustang! Why? A Bias Ply tire is constructed with internal nylon cords that cross from each bead of the tire and form an “X” design continuously around the tire. Without the steel belts like the Radial tire, the Bias Ply tire will be able to flex at its sidewall to absorb the shock of a launch at the Drag Strip.


DIFFERENT TYPES OF TIRES

Now that we have covered the two different ways that tires are manufactured in Radials and Bias Ply tires, we need to cover the different types of each and examine their ideal application.

The most common tire is a Street Radial. These are common street tires that will have plenty of tread for daily use in several different weather situations. Street radial tires have a harder compound and will have the longest lifespan.

Another type of radial that is popular among the racing community is the Drag Radial. This version of the radial tire still has a tread designed into the rubber-like the street radial but it is much less in comparison and it has a much softer compound. This will allow the tire to be DOT legal but will lead to a much shorter life. With this in mind, the soft compound will not require as much of a burnout at the drag strip to get them ready to rip! Check out our Fox Body codenamed "Dragula" on some drag radials highlighting our ever-popular SVE Drag Comp Wheels.

Drag Slicks is a type of Bias Ply tire that has features that benefit the muscle car enthusiast in a big way! Then launching a car at a drag strip, the power rapidly transfers through the drivetrain to the tires. A Bias Ply Drag slick’s sidewall will flex or wrinkle in a way to absorb the impact from launching high horsepower cars. This will protect car features such as rear ends, suspension, transmissions, etc. However, if your car is going to do any high-speed turning, a bias-ply drag slick will be a major hindrance because of the sidewall flex. Keep this type of tire to straight-line racing only.

Drag Radials Vs Slicks | Tire Differences - Drag Radials Vs Slicks | Tire Differences

DAILY USAGE AND WEAR

A standard Radial tire will be best when it comes to daily use. However, we are talking about racing tires! For those who drive their “race cars” on a daily basis, the question comes to mind, “are drag radials street legal?” There are such things as DOT-compliant competition drag radials that can technically be driven on the street. That leads to another question: Are drag radials good for daily driving? This is not recommended for an extended period of time for a few reasons! One, the cost of the tire. Drag Radials have a much softer “race compound” than a road tire and will wear out much faster.

Another thing to consider with a drag radial tire is that the tread depth is extremely minimal compared to a standard radial tire. For example, compare Mickey Thompson drag radials to your traditional passenger car tire. The tires on your wife’s SVU are designed to combat water, dirt, and other road hazards on a daily basis. Driving home through a rainstorm in your 600 horsepower beast with a drag radial is dangerous on top of being expensive! One can easily lose traction and wreck their race car even if you are being careful.

Drag Slicks, on the other hand, are not DOT legal and should not be used on the street. Why are Drag Slicks illegal to be driven on the street? They are designed to put the most rubber to the ground for the best traction on a drag strip. They cannot handle wet conditions and since they do not have any tread, they can very easily hydroplane and destroy your investment. Don’t do it. Check out some of the drag slicks below that were equipped with our SVE Drag "Classic" Wheels from our 2019 Cruise-In.

Drag Radials Vs Slicks | Tire Differences - Drag Radials Vs Slicks | Tire Differences
Photo Credits: thatpalehorse

Commonly Asked Questions

Are drag radials good for daily driving?
  • This is not recommended due to the cost of the tire and the little amount of tread. With them being softer than a standard radial, they will wear much faster and with little tread in comparison, it can be dangerous if caught in wet weather conditions.
Why are drag slicks illegal?
  • Because of the total lack of tread, Drag slicks cannot handle wet conditions and they can very easily hydroplane and destroy your investment. Don’t do it.
Do slicks hook on the street?
  • The short answer is no. Slicks perform their best on a clean, prepped track free from road debris, oils, and other components. If you drive something with very little power, they could hook simply because the car does not make enough power.

Final Thoughts

Modern tires offer several different options for almost any driving need. Whether you are needing a softer radial tire for the road course or a bias ply slick for your 9 second S550 Mustang, finding what you need is not a problem.

For more detailed tech articles, keep it here with the true Ford Mustang and SVT Lightning enthusiasts, LMR.com!