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Stock Car Race Wheels: Picking the Right Wheel with Aero Race Wheels

When it came time to outfit our street stock project car with racing wheels, we took the monkey-see, monkey-do approach.  We took a look at the faster cars in our class because they obviously are doing something right to be running up front every week.  Truth be told, there’s more to racing wheels than most of us ever realize with many of these features being taken for granted.  We’re going to be shedding some light on what goes into the design of a dirt track racing wheel and we have tapped into the knowledge base of one of the premier wheel manufacturers in racing, Aero Race Wheels, to help us out.

Even NASCAR teams select Aero Race Wheels for their racing wheels.

Products from Aero Race Wheels, located in Estherville, Iowa, have become a staple at circle tracks across the country.  From Saturday night dirt tracks to NASCAR’s highest levels, many race teams use Aero Race Wheels to help them get to the winner’s circle.  We talked with Wayne Redmond, one of the big wheels at the wheel manufacturer, and Wayne clued us in on what makes a racing wheel a good wheel.

Since Aero Race Wheels works closely with the NASCAR Teams engineers, information is shared between the engineers and the manufacturer that help advance the technology in racing wheels.  “We put that technology into every line of wheels that we sell,” said Redmond. “There is no budget series of wheels that we produce under another name with less quality, we only produce Aero Race Wheels and we pride ourselves on our top quality.”

Aero's manufacturing process includes pressing the center section, then spinning the center section to control the material tolerances in tight specifications.

What makes a good race wheel?

Several years ago, many wheel manufacturers were using taller bead flanges and oversized bead seats in the construction of their wheels.  This required perilously high air pressures to seat the tires on the wheels.  In an effort to reduce injuries caused by this, many of the larger racing series like IMCA and Wissota, require additional certification standards by mandating DOT legal bead flanges on the wheels.  “Aero Race Wheels makes it’s own dies for forming the wheels that the company offers”, stated Redmond.  By making their own wheel forming dies, Aero is able to make wheels that “have a raised tire retaining bead that is DOT legal, but still has an edge to help retain the tire.”

Some of the other certifications specified by sanctioning bodies include additional fatigue testing on the different sections of the wheel to certify for strength.  Additionally, some series, IMCA for example, mandates a minimum weight rule of 19 pounds on each wheel to prevent use of lightweight material in the construction of the wheels.

Aero Race Wheels does everything "in-house" including making their own dies. This allows the manufacturer to put different degree flanges on wheels for stronger racing wheels.

Rolled or Spun Wheels?

Steel racing wheels can be made by two processes: spun or rolled.  Spun wheels are typically stronger than rolled wheels because the material is controlled in tighter tolerances in the spinning method.  Flanges, corners and the radii in a spun wheel have consistent material thickness which contributes to the overall strength of the wheel.

There are two basic parts of a wheel: the shell and the center section.  The shell is the outer section and is the part that is either rolled or spun in the manufacturing process.

A rolled wheel is made by stretching the material over mandrels or dies.  This process causes the corners and radii area of the wheel to be thinner in these areas to conform to the mandrel or die.  This is an economical and quicker process than the spinning process and more common in sportsman racing.  There has been some studies done that indicate that spun wheels can outlast rolled wheels by as much as 75%.

Most center sections are stamped then spun to create the shape that is needed.  The center section has critical areas where the wheel studs are mounted and where the shell is attached.  Because these areas must be able to withstand the loading that takes place in these areas, the center sections must be stronger.  According to Redmond, “the center section is a very critical point because that is what holds the wheel onto the car, but the actual rim shell is also critical because material that is too light can allow the rim to collapse.”

For most Bomber Stock and Modified racing classes, usually conducted on 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile tracks, the rolled wheels will handle the stress of side forces created under these conditions with no problem.  Drivers on tracks with higher speeds and tighter corners may benefit from spun wheels.

Anatomy of a race wheel

  • Bolt pattern or lug pattern or bolt circle: Determined by the number of bolt holes and the bolt circle diameter.
  • Hub Diameter or center bore: The hole at the center of the wheel.
  • Rear spacing or back spacing: The distance from the backside of the wheel mounting pad to the outside of the rim flange.
  • Offset: The distance from the centerline of the wheel to the mounting surface of the wheel.
  • Negative offset: When the back of the bolt pad is closer to the inside of the wheel; when mounting surface is inboard of the rim centerline.
  • Positive offset: When the back of the bolt pad is closer to the street side of the wheel; when the mounting surface is outboard of the rim centerline.
  • Beadlock: A device which captures the tire bead between it’s flanges, usually secured by bolts to keep tire bead from dismounting. Usually used in dirt circle track or off road applications where low tire pressures are used and hitting ruts or other vehicles are common.

Madd Maxx: Picking Our Wheels

The biggest factor to consider when selecting race wheels is the rules under which you will be competing.  For our project car the local track rules were pretty wide open.  The only requirements being an 8 inch maximum wheel width, must be a steel wheel, 5/8” studs are required on all four wheels and only the right rear can be outfitted with a beadlock wheel.

Aero Race Wheels offers several different series of race wheels for circle track racing, from the 30 Series economical 13″ diameter wheel for mini stocks to the NASCAR Approved 59 Series Asphalt wheel.  Based on our needs, the modestly priced Series 50 wheels suited our budget and our local track rules perfectly.  We knew from talking with Wayne Redmond that the same engineering went into the 50 series wheel that goes into their top of the line wheels, so there was no hesitation on going with the economically priced wheel.

The Series 50 wheel in 8″ rim width is tested to IMCA certification standards and has the label attached which means that it has met the additional strength testing standards.  They are only slightly heavier than the Series 51 wheels and we felt that the additional weight was not going to adversely affect the performance of the car.

Wheel backspace.

Initially we opted to go with 3” backspacing on all four wheels, mainly for uniformity.  Redmond explained, “Aero Race Wheels have more brake clearance than some other brands so there is more space between the wheel and the brake caliper.  This reduces heat and pressure buildup in the tire and allows you to go with a wider variety of backspacing if you desire.”

Our local track rules only allowed "beadlock" wheels on the right rear tire.

Redmon suggested we use an initial setup combination of 2″ offset and 4″ offset wheels. “With the front being wider, this will have the effect of tightening up the car. You can then adjust the car with different offsets to suit your driver’s needs,” he explained.

We have stayed with the 3” offset on all four corners of our project car, but we keep a ready supply of 2” and 4” on hand in case we need to loosen or tighten up the car on a given night.

Wheel Maintenance

Wheels should be visually inspected each week or after every race.  Look for dents, bent rims and cracks.  The area where cracks are most likely to be found is the weld area where the center section is welded to the shell.  Welding the crack or replacing the wheel are the only options when you find a crack.  Continuing to race on a wheel that has a crack is a recipe for disaster.  Cracks will grow rapidly as they are subjected to the side loads of racing.

Lug nut holes should be inspected for elongation and cracks weekly.

The lug nut holes should be inspected weekly to ensure that the holes have not become enlarged or elongated.  A tell-tell sign will be in the tapered seat area of the hole.  If the tapered seat is not smooth and round, then you likely have wear in lug nut hole.

Check the lateral wheel run-out, often referred to as “wobble”, at least three times a season.    Using a dial indicator to measure the run-out, check that the wobble is no greater than 0.030”.

Check the condition of the bead flange.  Some dents can be straightened out in this area, but keep in mind that if you bend this flange often, the metal becomes weaker.  Redmond explained by saying; “Successfully straightening out the flange depends on the grade of material used by the manufacturer.  Some material may be brittle and will crack when bent.  We actually designed a wrench that bends flanges back into shape and we market it with confidence because the material in our wheels can withstand the use of this tool.  It’s not designed to bend the flange after every race though.  It’s a one shot deal then you probably need to replace the wheel.”

A racing wheel in this condition could not, and should not be repaired. However, if you have a doubt, ask the manufacturer. In these days of modern technology, you can email a picture over to a manufacturer's tech line and receive a response in short order.

Proper Lug Nut Torque

Lug Size        Ft/Lbs Torque

7/16″              55-65

1/2″                75-85

9/16″              95-115

5/8″                135-145

12mm             72-80

14mm             85-95

When In Doubt…ASK.

Our final word on selecting, inspecting and maintaining your race wheels is, if you have doubts, call the manufacturer and ask.  There are differences between wheels made by different manufacturers and you may have to try a couple different wheels from each manufacturer before you find the style and type that work for you.

Aero, Bassett, Bart, Duralite, Diamond, Circle, and Weld are a few of the companies that make wheels designed specifically for dirt track racing.  Each company offers a line of products that has applications in just about every class of racing that takes place on short tracks every Saturday night across the country.  The plus side is; each company has a tech line where you can call and get recommendations or have your questions answered.  When in doubt, ask the people that know.

Sources

Aero Race Wheels
Phone: 888-895-2376

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