Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
April 7, 2017

There’s no denying that cars continue to get quicker and faster. Whether they are straight off the assembly line or heavily modified for track use, today’s automobiles have more horsepower and torque than ever before, and Mickey Thompson has stepped up to provide the street and race rubber that enthusiasts need to take advantage of the extra ponies under the hood.

In 2014, Mickey Thompson unveiled a revamped lineup of high performance tires, and as the various product lines have rolled out to masses since then, we thought it best to take a look at the changes to M/T’s offerings, and sort out the various applications that they may be useful for.

This is where it started for many a street and race enthusiast. The Gen 1 Mickey Thompson drag radial was a formidable tire in its day, but technological advancements have improved upon the design and a broader product line allows enthusiasts to pick a drag radial that better suits their individual needs.

Stellar Street Tires

Before we get into the drag radial shoes, it is important to point out that M/T debuted a new Street Comp tire in 2014, and the tire line has steadily gained traction, no pun intended, in the late-model performance market.

The M/T Street Comp is a conventional ultra high performance tire with an asymmetric tread design that provides great dry and wet weather traction. With a UTQG treadwear of 300, it should last plenty long on your daily or weekend driver. For those OCD types, the Street Comp allows you to have one brand of tire on the car should you have your daily equipped with Mickey’s drag radial tires out back. Sizing for the Street Comp starts with 17-inch diameters and runs all the way up to 20-inches, which are especially popular and sometimes standard with S197 and S550 Mustangs.

The new ET Street S/S offers an improvement in wet-weather traction, making it better suited to the daily driver that needs additional traction on the street, as well as grip at the track when the power is turned up for quick elapsed times.
Moving to a more track-oriented, but still streetable tire is the ET Street R, which gives up a bit in wet-weather performance for better straight-line grip on and off the track.

Gobs of Grip—Here Come the Drag Radials

Moving to the drag radial line of tires, it’s important to note that the original Mickey Thompson drag radial, commonly referred to as the Gen 1 in racing circles, has been retired. When it’s racier sibling, the 275 Pro debuted in 2010, M/T took a lot of what it learned from that tire and put it into two new offerings: the ET Street S/S and the ET Street R tires.

If there was one drawback to the original M/T drag radial, it’s that it didn’t offer much in the way of wet-weather traction when compared to its main competition at the time; the new ET Street S/S design offered a remedy for that.

The ET Street S/S is a DOT-approved tire that uses the same R2 compound from the 275 Pro, and features a redistributed tread pattern that according to Mickey Thompson’s Jason Moulton, provides 30 percent better wet-weather traction than the previous Gen 1 tire.

This is the tire for the guy who find it hard to maintain traction most anywhere due to improved engine performance, but who also spends most of his time wheeling his hot ride on the street, while occasionally hitting the track. Bear in mind that the ET Street S/S is an improvement over the original M/T drag radial, and it’s on-track performance can pretty much handle anything you can throw at it.

Just how quick can you go on it you may be wondering, well, Louie Filippides and George Farkouh compete in the NMCA’s Edelbrock Xtreme Street class where the S/S is one of the spec tires. As of this writing, the team holds the class record at 7.50 in the quarter-mile and has gone as quick as 7.44 in the off season in better air—how is that for an improved wet-weather, drag radial tire! The ET Street S/S offers one of the company’s widest ranging product lines, offering sizes from 15-inch diameters all the way to 20. More sizes are on the way in late 2017, early 2018.

For enthusiasts who have a more track-focused machine in his/her garage, but still needs a DOT-approved, street-legal tire, Mickey Thompson offers its ET Street R. This tire gives up a wet-weather tread pattern in favor of a more track-oriented design with smaller voids and less grooves than the S/S. This, in turn, creates a better contact patch for increased straight-line traction.

The ET Street R shares the R2 rubber compound with the S/S, but its construction is different and incorporates much of the 275 Pro technology. Sizes continue to roll out for the ET Street R, and currently the company offers 15-inch through 18-inch diameters in the most popular tread widths.

It’s also notable to point out that within the ET Street R product line is an offering of bias-ply tires. Indeed these are revamped versions of the original Mickey Thompson ET Street tire that 5.0-liter Mustang stick drivers used all through the 90s and even now. One look at the 15-17-inch sizes and you’ll se the similarity, but these tires utilize the latest in ET Drag technology, and share the minimal tread pattern with its radial ET Street R siblings. For many stick-shifted cars, a bias-ply tire is still the way to go for optimum elapsed times, but the radial is closing in on it for sure.

The 275 Pro, which kicked off this major shift in product development for Mickey Thompson, has been officially branded as the ET Street Radial Pro. This tire was built for competition use only, and thus its DOT approval is for sanctioning body purposes only.

Fiscus/Klugger Racing set the world on edge when it muscled its Racecraft-built, twin-turbo machine to a record-setting 5.92-second quarter-mile time at over 250 mph.
Florida’s Bart Tobener competes in NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street and NMRA Street Renegade with his 2015 Mustang. On the ET Street S/S, Tobener piloted the pony to a 7.99 to make it the first S550 Mustang in the 7s. He later improved on that time, running the ET Street Radial Pro in Renegade competition and clocking a 7.92 at over 170 mph.

As mentioned previously, the Street Radial Pro shares the same rubber compound and construction as the R model, but the tread pattern gives way to the bare minimum required for DOT approval. The 275/60-15 size is what started the Pro line, and this tire (as of this writing) has propelled Ziff Hudson and his Fox-Body Mustang to a 4.01-second, eighth-mile elapsed time. The 315 version came out in late 2015, and in the fall of 2016, Kevin Fiscus and Josh Klugger used it to run 5.92 at over 250 mph in the quarter-mile on their twin-turbo 481X-powered, Fox-body notchback. Shortly thereafter, Stevie “Fast” Jackson set the eighth-mile record with the 315 mounted on Phil Shuler’s blown Pro Mod, covering the distance in 3.73 seconds.

As you can see, Mickey Thompson’s DOT-approved tires can provide the traction for the quickest of street and track cars, but the company also has other race-oriented offerings in its Pro Drag Radial and Pro Bracket Radial tires.

The Pro Bracket Radial tire was designed for the sportsman racer that needs a long-lasting tire that is consistent across a multitude of track conditions. Its compound allows the tire to recover better after wheel spin, and its radial construction offers improved performance over traditional bias-ply options.

The ET Street Radial Pro, easily identified by its minimalist grooves, has been the tire setting all of the radial-tire records for several years now. It’s designated for competition use only, and though it uses the same R2 compound, it features a much softer sidewall than the S/S and R tires.
The Mickey Thomson Pro Drag Radial is a competition tire with a slick contact patch. It’s a non-DOT-approved tire that features lighter construction for less rotational weight. Its radial construction means that there is less rolling resistance, and that the tire will not grow in diameter as speed increases, which allows you to predict your gear ratios more easily.
The advent of the drag-radial tire has made street cars faster than ever. Car’s like Justin Jordan’s twin-turbo, Coyote-powered Mustang use M/T drag radials to run into the 7s in the quarter-mile.

"When radial tires were first introduced in drag racing, they were fast, but they often proved to be unforgiving at the starting line," stated M/T’s Jason Moulton, Product Development Manager at Mickey Thompson. "We're closing this gap in radial-tire technology with the new Pro Bracket Radial.” The tire’s radial construction also means that racers don’t have to worry about checking and adjusting for roll out, just another added feature of the radial design.

The Pro Drag Radial is aimed squarely at the Outlaw 8.5, Outlaw 10.5, and NHRA Super Stock racers. The tire features a lighter construction and is designed for well-prepped tracks that you’ll usually find at Outlaw races and NHRA national events.

While other companies have made little to no advancements in the drag-radial market, or even faded away altogether, Mickey Thompson has forged ahead to a point where it may be hard for others to stage a comeback or start a new line. Rumor on the street is that Nitto is working on a new, track-oriented drag radial, and Continental Tire’s acquisition of Hoosier Tire in 2016 could provide an influx of development funding and technology, so there might be some competition coming to market, but that’s usually a good thing as the old adage states, “competition breeds innovation.”


How are Radials Quicker than Bias-Ply Tires?

Bias-ply drag tires, like the traditional slick tires that races have used since the beginning, have been the mainstay for racing and much of that is because of the contact patch that a full slick offers—there’s simply more rubber to grab the ground with. The other reason they worked so well in drag applications is that their soft sidewall construction allows the tire to absorb the power coming from the engine so it doesn’t hit the tires so aggressively at launch. This provides a little more time for the car to transfer weight to the rear, which in turn pushes down on the tires for added traction when the sidewall reaches its limit and must rotate the tire.

That power-absorbing sidewall is a tradeoff, however, as you’re not using that power to drive the car forward. This phenomenon not only happens at launch, but during every shift as well. Now if you can stick the power you have without twisting up the sidewall, the car will be quicker and faster every time because you’re not wasting that energy, and the rolling resistance all the way down track is lessened because of the stiffer sidewall.

Within the last decade or so, rubber compounds and tire construction have allowed the drag radial to gain ground on the bias-ply when it comes to ultimate traction, and we’re not far from seeing it take over. There are still some instances where a bias-ply tire is the go-to shoe, and some racing sanctions and/or classes still require such tires.