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Best Street Tires for Drag Racing: Do it All on One Set

Who’s got time to swap tires or room for multiple sets?

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BYHank O'Hop/ August 4, 2022

Though I understand the hassle of swapping tires to make a pass at the track, your current shoes won't hook up and are killing your chances of a Twitter-worthy time slip. Don’t fret — I've got you covered. I’m going to run through some of the best street legal tires built for drag racing that'll make dramatic improvements on the strip, as well as talk you through some of the details you need to keep in mind while you shop around. Let’s get into it.

Best Overall

Mickey Thompson ET Street S/S

Summary
The tire you'd expect from the manufacturer that's led the industry since the beginning. Its excellent track performance is matched by street manners that might not match what ETs suggest.
Pros
  • Great traction on drag strip
  • Offers decent street performance 
  • Available in a wide range of sizes 
  • R2 compound offers great traction with little to no burnout
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Poor street performance compared to competition
Best Value

Nitto NT555RII

Summary
Nitto's NT555RII is the go-to tire for many. It's great on the track, good on the street, and not quite as hard on your wallet as others.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Excellent blend of street and strip performance 
  • Better wet traction performance than most
  • Available in a wide range of sizes
Cons
  • Track performance isn’t as good as the competition
  • Cold weather performance is poor for a street tire
Honorable Mention

Nitto NT05R

Summary
A little more aggressive than most, but not so much that street use is dangerous. It's sticky on the track but docile enough to keep you safe around town.
Pros
  • Excellent track performance 
  • Designed to perform under a wide range of track conditions
  • Available in a wide range of sizes
Cons
  • Not as good for street use as others
  • Poor wet weather performance
Best Street Tires for Drag Racing: Do it All on One Set

Summary List 

Best Value: Nitto NT555RII 

Honorable Mention: Nitto NT05R

Most Versatile: Toyo PROXES R888R

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

Our list and suggestions focus solely on DOT-approved drag radials. These tires are built for vehicle owners that want the best performance possible on the drag strip in a street-legal package. We based our selection on what keyword searches produced, as well as our own personal experience. The tires you see were selected based on their popularity, and those that our research indicates perform the best in most instances. And though we stand behind our list and buying guide, it's important to remember that these are performance parts and your experiences will vary based on the application and conditions you use them in. 

Best Street Tires for Drag Racing Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Brand: Mickey Thompson
  • Tire Model: ET Street S/S
  • Size: 275/40R20

Pros

  • Great traction on drag strip
  • Offers decent street performance
  • Available in a wide range of sizes
  • R2 compound offers great traction with little to no burnout

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Poor street performance compared to competition

Mickey Thompson's ET Street S/S is tough to top as a street legal tire suitable for use on the drag strip. Come race day. It's a tyrant that even the best competition struggles to keep up with. The R2 compound provides maximum grip with little to no burnout required to reach its peak. It does also offer decent street performance and is available in a wide range of sizes, making it a great option for many hardcore street/strip car builders. The price is high, but it's not the only thing potentially holding this tire back. It is designed to outperform most anything on the strip, which comes at the compromise of street performance. That factor alone drives plenty of street car owners toward other options.

Specs

  • Brand: Nitto
  • Tire Model: NT555RII
  • Size: 275/40R20

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Excellent blend of street and strip performance
  • Better wet traction performance than most
  • Available in a wide range of sizes

Cons

  • Track performance isn’t as good as competition’s
  • Cold weather performance is poor for a street tire

Nitto's NT555RII is the rightful winner of the title of Best Overall in the eyes of many, but its price and performance in a wide range of circumstances earn it the place of Best Value here. Being so well-rounded is a significant deal for street-driven vehicles, especially when it outdoes other equally aggressive tires in the rain. It is also available in a wide range of sizes, making it a great option for classic and late model car owners. This tire is absolutely no slouch on the strip, and it is a go-to for many weekend warriors. However, it will be outrun by some other tire options come race day, which is all many racers care about. Also, it's worth pointing out that some feel this tire's performance suffers more in the cold weather than is normal for this type of tire.

Specs

  • Brand: Nitto
  • Tire Model: NT05R
  • Size: P325 45R18

Pros

  • Excellent track performance
  • Designed to perform under a wide range of track conditions
  • Available in a wide range of sizes

Cons

  • Not as good for street use as others
  • Poor wet weather performance

The NT05R is another great street-legal tire from Nitto for drivers to consider. It's an aggressive performance tire built to deliver excellent performance on the strip. It's essentially the tire builders go to when they want something a little more performance-oriented than the last entry from the brand on our list. It retains Nitto's signature ability to perform under a number of conditions but with little compromise to its competitive nature. Of course, it's available in a wide range of sizes, making it a viable option for many builds. This is a solid tire for the strip, but its performance advantage there does come at the expense of street performance. It'll handle ideal conditions well, but wet weather is a major problem for this tire.

Specs

  • Brand: Toyo
  • Tire Model: Proxes R888R
  • Size: 285/35ZR19

Pros

  • Well-rounded track performance
  • Excellent handling characteristics
  • Good performance under a wide range of road conditions

Cons

  • Fairly limited size range
  • Not as good performance on the strip as other tires

Toyo's Proxes R888R is a serious contender for a vehicle that'll see more tracks than the quarter mile. It'll handle road courses, autocross, and regular street driving better than most tires on the market. Being so good at so many things make it a go-to for a lot of high-performance car owners, many of which are outside of the muscle car division. It is worth saying that this tire also handles poor weather conditions better than much of the competition. The biggest issue this tire faces is its limited availability as far as sizes go. It's not something you can toss on just anything. Also, being good at many things means it doesn't really excel at any one thing. That means it will be outperformed by a tire oriented for drag racing in the appropriate setting.

Specs

  • Brand: Mickey Thompson
  • Tire Model: ET Street R
  • Size: P305/45R17

Pros

  • R2 compound requires little to no burnout
  • Excellent track performance
  • Decent size range

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Poor design for street use

If you're still spinning the average DOT-approved drag radial, Mickey Thompson's ET Street R is likely the tire you're after. That flat tread with few grooves throughout declares it's here to grab and hold on to the track, even under the harshest conditions. It's also built with Mickey Thompson's R2 compound and doesn't need a big smokey burnout to do its job. And before you assume this is a specialty tire that's limited to only a few sizes, you better check out the comprehensive size chart. As an aggressive track tire, street performance takes a serious hit and this is the last tire on the list you want to use in inclement weather. Also, the price is in line with some of the more well-rounded tires, despite having a far more limited range of uses.

Our Verdict

The Mickey Thompson ET Street S/S is a tough tire to beat in this segment. However, the Nitto NT555RII delivers demanded performance without paying a premium. Don't just take our word for it, though. Remember that any tire is a major contributor to your vehicle's performance. It's important to consider all factors of your build and driving conditions to find a tire that is a perfect match for the application. 

Things to Consider Before Buying Street Tires for Drag Racing 

Key Features 

Don’t buy a set of tires solely because someone tells you to. Take the time to research any tire you’re considering to ensure it matches your application and driving style. Otherwise, there's a very good chance you'll wind up buying another set of tires shortly after your first drive on them. In the case of drag radials, you'll want to keep the following features in mind while you shop. 

DOT Approval 

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) needs to approve of your tires for highway use if you intend to use them for regular transportation. Drag radials are often designed to meet requirements for said use, but it is still something you need to confirm. Make a habit of finding out if a tire is DOT-approved before size, compound, and tread pattern. Doing so will save you a lot of hassle on the backend of the tire selection process. Be aware that some competition tires do receive a DOT approval but only for markings and are not intended nor are they safe for highway use. 

Tread and Compound

Better performance on the strip generally comes at the expense of performance on the street. If you're ok with that, go ahead and buy something with as smooth of a contact patch as possible, like the Mickey Thompson ET Street R. If you're not OK with that, you need to compromise strip performance just a little. Tread patterns can have a long list of features that will help street and strip performance, and it’s best to read into what each has to offer to find what works best for you. The compound is also a big determining factor in how the tire performs under given circumstances and is another detail to research before you purchase a tire. 

Size 

The tire tread and compound do a lot of heavy lifting, but selecting the right tire size is equally as important. Width and height are two things you really need to be aware of. A wider tire offers better traction, but you don't want to go so wide that it won't fit the wheel or in the wheel well. Tire height factors into the gearing of the driveline as well. Changing it directly affects vehicle speed at any given RPM. Going too tall or too short can have adverse or desirable effects on performance. Take the time to figure out which size works best for your application. If you're unsure, stick as close to your existing tire size as possible. 

Drag Radial Pricing 

The price of performance tires, like any tire, is dependent on a few factors. Quality and the name attached to the tire are two of the biggest factors contributing to the overall price. Size is also a big determining characteristic. In any case, you can expect to pay $250 to $400 per tire for drag radials sized for the typical street car. How many you need depends on your driveline. Rear-wheel drive and front-wheel drive applications only need two drag radials, while all-wheel drive vehicles need matching tires all around. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Can you drag race with street tires?

A: Yes. However, you should only do so on some sort of performance tire that can handle the conditions. Otherwise, traction will be limited, which can lead to dire consequences.

Q: Are drag radials faster than slicks?

A: Radials are often the superior choice, but it depends on a few factors. It really all comes down to how the car is set up and the conditions the vehicle is being driven under.

Q: Can you drive slicks on the street?

A: No. Slicks are not permitted for use on the street by the DOT. Doing so can be dangerous, as these tires are not built with regular road conditions in mind.

Q: Why do drag racing cars have skinny front tires?

A: Running smaller tires reduces weight and friction, which improves speed. If you intend to do this setup, it's important to remember that skinnier tires will reduce braking power, and you may need to consider further upgrades to keep the vehicle safe.

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