One of the first questions I ask race teams when I work with them is, "What is the most important adjustment on the car?" As you would expect, the variety of answers runs a full spectrum. The answer that ranks at or near the top with each of these impromptu surveys, right behind the driver, is tires. Tires are a critical component of any race car's ability to perform at or near its peak. The only physical interface between the car and the racetrack is the tires.

From the perspective of the Saturday night racer, tires, while important, may be only one of many different components that require a high level of dedicated attention. In addition, many Saturday night racers may not have a great deal of time to dedicate to the many factors competing for their time, especially when considering all of the other requirements to get the car to the track on a regular basis. The concept of tire management may not be something that gets any more attention than, say, engine maintenance or making sure the food gets loaded into the hauler for tonight's race. For many racers on a budget, just making sure they even have tires is more of a key factor than making sure the tires they have are in peak condition. While this attitude may not lead to many track championships, it is an understandable and reasonable mindset.

Within this discourse, we will be looking at dirt tires and focusing on Sprint cars. The fact of the matter is that cars racing on dirt have different types of issues from the cars that race on pavement. The type of tire, the compound, the size, and the brand to use are concerns the dirt racer may share with his or her pavement peers. The big difference is that this decision must be made at each corner of the car and not from an aggregate perspective, as it is with the pavement car. Many racing associations have specifications that may mandate the selection of all tires, or maybe just the right-rear tire. Even within the specification, there are many things still open for the racer to adjust and develop.

Many racers may wish for all the new tires they could use. Yes, it would be nice to have new tires each race, but even in that scenario you still have to manage the use of the tires and determine the setup parameters of the tire and wheel combination. Even the solution with the highest cost requires a given level of work. In fact, the work load is even higher when the resources are richer.

Usually, in the forms of racing where this is the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), such as NASCAR, IRL, and F1, the level of work does not diminish, it actually increases. There are other teams with the same SOP, and they are trying to get the most out of the tires, too-no different from the Saturday night racer. The only difference is they have teams of dedicated tire professionals who focus solely on tires and tire management.