erry Francis, vice president of sales at Mickey Thompson Performance Tires and Wheels, has a three-word answer to our question, Why should I run my slicks with tubes inside?

"Consistency and safety," he says. And therein lies an answer to a question that is almost guaranteed to start a heated argument inside any car trailer, beer bar, racetrack grandstand or anywhere else that bracket racers gather to bench-race.

There are more opinions about whether to tube or not to tube than there are '69 Camaro Super Pro bracket cars out on a Saturday night. On one side are the no-tube contingent who will tell you that they have never raced with tubes in their slicks and they only use a pound or two of air each week, max. Plus, they add, a tube is weight, and they're out to save as much weight as they can. "Heck, when I race I don't even eat, because I'm afraid the weight of a hamburger and a Coke might slow me down a few thousandths."

Then there are the guys who run tubes because they were told to. Besides, they say, a tube doesn't cost that much money. "I can go down to my local John Deere tractor store and pick up a good one for $10 or so. Works just as good as those high-dollar ones the slick makers want me to buy."

Both sides, Jerry Francis says, are wrong about their approach to tubes in drag racing.

Let's let him address the first equation first: A racer doesn't really need a racing tube for his slick.

You need a tube -- what kind we'll address later in this story -- because a tubeless slick will leak air. "Any brand of race tire is not guaranteed to hold air. They can and will leak air. The carcass of the tire, to make it hold air, has to have an extra piece of rubber molded
into the tire, and a racer does not want that rubber molded into the tire, because it affects the performance of the tire," Francis says. "The type of rubber that would be molded in to make it hold air is not going to aid the performance of the tire. And it's going to add to the cost. But that's irrelevant, because so is the tube."

So a racing tire without a tube is going to leak. And any leakage at all will affect the performance of the tire. When a tire is run at too low an air pressure -- due to air leakage or otherwise -- the carcass of the tire builds heat to excessive levels. And heat is what destroys a tire. "There is no rule of thumb on how many runs you'll get out of a tire. It will just affect the life of a tire. There are inconsistencies on the leakage, there are inconsistencies in the effect, and inconsistency of any kind is the total enemy of a bracket racer. Consistency is the whole game, the goal of a bracket racer," Francis said.

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