Why Are Skinny Tires Used In Drag Racing?

Mickey Thompson SR Front Runner - Drag Tire Buyer

When you purchase a new muscle car, aesthetics is something you’re bound to think about. But when it comes to drag racing, tire width and the selection of tires you make for your vehicle is a decision that goes beyond aesthetics.

When you start researching the best tires for your vehicle, there are a few important considerations you need to take into account: will your car be used mostly for drag racing, how heavy is your car and what do you want to achieve?

Many drag racers install and implement skinny tires to help them reduce their overall times, and change the weight of their vehicles.If you’ve ever been curious about the skinny tires you’ve seen on drag cars or you’re considering what configuration would be best for your vehicle, read on.

Skinny Tires Up Front

A decision many drag racers make is to do what is called “staggering” or running skinny tires at the front of the vehicle to reduce weight and friction while installing wider or stock tires at the back to help with grip, control, and faster acceleration.
A good bet is to play around with the combination of tires you use. It’s important to consider which skinny wheels will reduce overall weight, but still have enough height to allow you to run wide tires in the back.

Something to note is that this practice of staggering can be useful in a drag racing setting, but in practical application such as street driving often can lead to poor handling and significantly less control over the car.

Skinny Tires vs Wide Tires

Skinny vs Wide Tires For Drag Racing - Drag Tire Buyer

Stock sized tires which are sometimes quite wide weigh a good bit more than a drag racing specific front runner. As a wide tire increases the total contact area of the tire with the asphalt, you can achieve better traction with a wider tire. When it comes to drag racing however, you don’t need front wheel traction (unless you have a front wheel or all wheel drive vehicle), so the increased contact area isn’t needed.

Since a wider tire often has a sturdier construction, vehicles will be more stable when cornering. Obviously this isn’t needed when it comes to straight line performance.

However, with those considerations in mind, a skinnier tire weighs considerably less. By reducing the overall weight of a vehicle, a drag racer can greatly decrease resistance and increasing speed and improving on the ET.

In drag racing, there isn’t a great need for traction (apart from when you’re trying to avoid wheelspin), so the need for a wider tire is much less than street driving.

What Air Pressure For Front Runners

When running a skinny front runner it is important to think about how much air pressure you can run in the tires. 

This depends on several factors, including the diameter of the tire you’ve purchased, the overall weight of your vehicle and the type of racing you intend to do.

Our recommendation is referring to the individual manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines when it comes to air pressure. Ultimately you want to run as high of a psi as possible to reduce rolling resistance.

Common Front Runner Sizes

Depending on your vehicle, there are a few different sizes of front drag tires. The most common size is 15″ due to most front drag wheels are a 15″ diameter.  There are also 17″ and 18″ front runners that are designed to fit better on late model vehicles that come equipped with larger brakes and need additional clearance.

The current trend with a lot of late model cars is to run a staggered setup where the front wheels are a larger diameter than the front.


Skinny tires are an iconic drag racing visual, but the decision to install skinny tires goes beyond the aesthetic. By reducing weight and friction, skinny tires can help racers shave a few extra seconds off their overall time, and might be the difference between winning and losing.

There are many considerations to think about when it comes to installing skinny tires on your vehicle. The debate between skinny and wide tires will continue to wage on in drag racing communities, but it is still a very popular practice that we expect will continue. If you’re considering adding skinny tires to your vehicle, be sure to think about safety, speed and your experience in handling drag racing vehicles before making your final decision.