Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 10, Page


Ten-Wide Tire Turmoil

Words and photos by Ian Tocher

Shod with new Hoosier C11 drag slicks, Steve Kirk Jr. made successive qualifying passes of 4.435 and 4.430 seconds with a top speed of 174.62 mph for the ADRL’s Dragstock III at Rockingham Dragway in September. The record-setting performance set off both a buying frenzy and tire-size controversy among Outlaw 10.5 racers.

All of 4.43 seconds may have changed the face Outlaw 10.5 racing forever. That’s how long it took for Steve Kirk Jr. and his John Ferguson-owned 2000 Camaro to cover the eighth mile while qualifying for ADRL’s Dragstock III at Rockingham Dragway last month. 

Beyond the lightning quick E.T. and impressive 174-plus mph speed—both the best so far achieved by an Outlaw 10.5 entry—Kirk’s effort was especially noteworthy as it came on the “new” 33X10.5 C11 drag slicks manufactured by Lakeville, IN-based Hoosier Tire.

Racer reaction was swift and decisive. Kirk’s record run came on Friday afternoon. By Monday, Hoosier was sold out of its latest Outlaw 10-wide offering.

“As soon as you go fast on something nobody else is using, that’s when everybody suddenly wants it,” observed Kirk, whose Kirk’s Speed Shop has been a Hoosier Tire dealer since opening in 1995 near his home in Monroe, GA.

Despite the copy-cat purchasing his own success touched off, Steve Kirk dispels the notion that a set of new Hoosiers will automatically turn a struggling team’s performance around. “The tire is just part of what makes this car go—a big part, but still just a part,” he said in victory lane after winning at Rockingham.

Kirk actually made his competition debut with the new hoops in August at an outlaw race at Montgomery (AL) Motorsports Park where he ran consistent 4.50s and got the sales figures rolling. His trip to the final a couple of weeks later at an Outlaw Racing Street Car Association (ORSCA) points meet in Cecil, GA, maintained Hoosier’s marketing momentum—and then came Rockingham.

“Everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon because the Hoosiers are a great combination for my car,” Kirk said. “And they can be a great combination for everybody else, but they’re just one of the few things that have made this car perform the way it has for the last few weeks.”

Despite his recent success on the new rubber, Kirk said the new tires were in his trailer for months before he even tried them out. It wasn’t until August, he explained, that he had the time to test the tires before getting into race conditions. “We just took the time out and went during the week and tested them in the heat of the day. At first they didn’t work, but we saw something there and we took it and worked them into our program to where it fits the car.”

Jack Barfield cautions against focusing solely on tread width when considering 10.5W tires. “Circumference is just as important to traction as width, so we need to somehow get a hold on that issue,” he says. The 2004 ORSCA Outlaw 10.5 champ realizes policing tire size will never be easy, but insists, “It’s one of the very most important parts of the class. I just think we’re going to be cheating ourselves if we allow the tire manufacturers to get into a deal where they start making tires that are just a little bit bigger each time.”

Ronnie Maggart, an independent Hoosier dealer based in Elmwood, TN, confirmed he had the tire available at Huntsville Dragway’s Outlaw Nationals in April, but there were few takers back then.

“We had the tire, but of course there’s a process of getting good people out here to test it and prove it works. It was a new product that we had been working on about a year prior to that and it’s taken this long to get it proven, but when Steve went the 4.43 it just went on fire,” Maggart said. “Everybody saw that the product worked. We had done some testing, but that was one of the first times it was entered in a race condition.”

For years, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires (M/T) enjoyed an almost monopoly on Outlaw 10.5 tire sales. A year or so ago Goodyear escalated its efforts to penetrate the market and both Yokohama and Toyo Tires count 10-wide tires among their inventories. But the Hoosier is the first tire to quickly make a serious, widespread inroad into M/T’s Outlaw 10-wide territory.

Although he’ll continue running the “Sticky Mickeys” for now, 2004 ORSCA Outlaw 10.5 champ Jack Barfield said he welcomes the competition for his business. The Pembroke, GA-based racer calculated he spent $24,000 on tires alone for his championship season, but said when he approached Mickey Thompson representatives at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) convention that year about getting a price break as a loyal customer, his appeal fell on deaf ears. “And I wasn’t even trying to get free tires,” he said. “I was just looking to cut my bill back a little.”

Once Hoosier and Goodyear started getting involved last year, however, Barfield said M/T called with a request for him to do some testing and willing to provide tires.

“With Goodyear here and now Hoosier here, Mickey is suddenly ready to talk and we need that,” Barfield said. “The competition is good for the racers and I think this will make all the tire manufacturers better.”

Along those lines, Hoosier stepped up and demonstrated a commitment to customer service at the recently completed ORSCA event at Huntsville Dragway. Before the race the Outlaw 10.5 community was abuzz over Kirk’s heroics a couple of weeks earlier at Rockingham and it was clear Hoosier could sell all the tires it wanted. Trouble was, none were in stock.