When NASCAR unveiled the Next Gen car, they revamped their wheels to make them look more showroom-friendly. When you watch a Sunday afternoon or Saturday evening race, you can easily spot the differences between the wheels. But you might start to wonder what wheels NASCAR use.
The wheels NASCAR uses are made by BBS Inc, a German-based company with a branch located in Georgia. When NASCAR switched to its Next Gen car, they shifted from 15-inch steel wheels to 18-inch forged aluminum wheels with a single lug nut instead of the traditional 5-lug nut pattern.
Below, we will reveal in detail why NASCAR uses a different type of wheel for their Next Gen car. We will also discuss their previous wheels and the primary reason they no longer go with the 15-inch steel wheels. Finally, we will touch on why NASCAR used steel wheels for so long.
What Brand Of Rims Does NASCAR Use?
NASCAR uses wheel rims from the brand BBS Inc. They’re a German-based company, but their Georgia branch is where the NASCAR wheels come from. The rims are single lug nut 18-inch rims, and they’re made from forged aluminum as of 2022.
When you look at a NASCAR car, you may not realize that many of their car’s components come from the same companies or brands. The engines and overall car designs come from the manufacturers Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota, which teams can modify to their liking as long as they stay in NASCAR’s specs. But other components come from just one company.
When it comes to tires, you probably know NASCAR only uses Goodyear Eagles. With wheel rims, NASCAR follows the same approach as of 2022, although this wasn’t always the case.
Aero Race Wheels was a major supplier of NASCAR’s rims starting on November 2nd, 1997. There were others, but they were not as prevalent. However, NASCAR’s official website no longer lists Aero Race Wheels as a primary supplier. As of 2022, BBS of America Incorporated has become their latest and NASCAR’s only wheel supplier.
About BBS Of America Inc.
BBS’ origins go back to the Black Forest of Germany, where amateur racer Heinrich Baumgartner and Klaus Brand founded the company in 1970. The company set up a branch in the United States in 1983, in Braselton, Georgia near the Road Atlanta track.
Their motorsport department has not only supplied wheels for NASCAR, but also IMSA, IndyCar, Grand Am, and Trans Am. They have also since expanded another facility to Takaoka City, Japan, where they specialize in classic wheel designs like the RS-GT, RG-R, and Super RS.
About Aero Race Wheels
Aero Race Wheels traces its roots back to 1995, when F.L. Miller established the company in the small town of Estherville, Iowa. They specialized in the racing industry, and they believed in making the highest-quality wheels for the most affordable prices.
That said, many have flocked to the distributor, including local and regional racers gracing the dirt track. They have also supplied the lower two national series in NASCAR: the Xfinity and Truck Series.
While Aero is no longer listed on NASCAR’s site, they still provide wheels for many auto racing organizations worldwide. Per various sources online, they supplied wheels for the Cup Series well into the late 2010s.
What Size Of Rim Does NASCAR Use?
NASCAR uses 18-inch rims made of forged aluminum, and this is an increase from the 15-inch by 9.5-inch wheel rims that NASCAR used in the past. Along with many other rule changes, NASCAR’s 2022 Next Gen vehicle brought about the new rims with the single lug nut system.
In cars that preceded the Next Gen car, NASCAR used 15-inch by 9.5-inch wheels. Without the inner liner, the wheel weighed 24lb, and 27lb with the liner. However, the wheels also required teams to use five lug nuts that added weight to the rim, clocking in each wheel’s weight at over 50lb.
What Was Wrong With 15-Inch Wheels?
As mentioned, many NASCAR fans were not fond of the 15-inch wheels because they were yet another component that differed from production vehicles. Between the Generation 4 car’s debut in 1993 to the end of the Car of Tomorrow’s (CoT) life cycle in 2012, cars looked nothing like their road counterparts.
One of NASCAR’s primary goals was to try and at least make their cars somewhat resemble Ford Mustangs, Toyota Camrys, and Chevrolet Camaros in the showrooms at local dealerships. For safety reasons, this wasn’t completely possible, but NASCAR could at least come close.
Today, the cars’ bodies now look like their assembly-line equivalents despite the lack of headlights, tail lights, and grooved tires. And when NASCAR unveiled the Next Gen car, they widened the wheels to 18 inches, much to the fans’ pleasure.
Since manufacturers like Toyota, Ford, and Chevrolet take part in NASCAR as a selling ploy to potential customers, they too want the cars to look like they belong on the road. And 18-inch wheels help move the manufacturers’ endgame forward.
Not everyone was keen on NASCAR’s move to 18-inch wheels. Goodyear has supplied NASCAR tires exclusively for decades, minus the Tire War Era when they competed with Hoosier.
The switch to the 18-inch wheel forced Goodyear to redesign their tires for NASCAR. This led to changes in tread compounds because of the difference in the Next Gen car’s weight, design, and lower sidewall.
It was arguably Goodyear’s biggest redesign since NASCAR switched from bias to radial tires during the early 1990s. Goodyear didn’t resist the change, because just as NASCAR’s 3 manufacturers want to sell the street version of their car, Goodyear wants to sell tires.
However, it posed a challenge for the legendary tire manufacturer. Goodyear needed to put forth a massive effort in building the right tire design, model, and build. Then, it was off to the lab for testing, analyzing, and tweaking. For Goodyear, it was a long and exhausting process.
3 Years Of Testing
Once Goodyear believed the new tires were ready, they, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), and NASCAR collaborated for organizational testing. This took place at over 30 NASCAR tracks, starting at the Richmond Raceway in October 2019.
But there was another caveat: Goodyear had to ensure its distribution facilities were able to handle the new manufacturing specifications. And while Goodyear spent years designing 18-inch tires for other racing organizations, it was their first experience doing so at the level NASCAR demanded.
How did Goodyear hold up its end of the deal? The first official in-race test occurred at the Clash in Los Angeles. The quarter-mile track, by far NASCAR’s smallest, generated good returns. And if the tires performed well at a track that leaves little room for error, then Goodyear outdid themselves.
Why Does NASCAR Use Steel Wheels?
NASCAR used steel wheels because they were more durable than aluminum when they used 5 lug nuts. However, since NASCAR switched to the Next Gen car in 2022, the wheels no longer contain 5 lug nuts – just 1. Since NASCAR switched to aluminum, it was both cheaper and safer to use the single lug nut.
This was a massive change for NASCAR teams, as steel wheels were 2.5 times more dense than aluminum. Steel is also harder. And if you ever visited a steel packaging plant, you may have noticed that they wrap aluminum before sending it off. This is because aluminum is a softer metal.
It is also harder to bend steel. However, steel rusts whereas aluminum does not. To keep steel from rusting, you need to constantly paint it. This is not the case with aluminum. Aluminum is also easier to shape.
Overall, steel’s durability and cheaper costs attracted NASCAR for years. But, when you took one look at NASCAR’s old steel wheels, you may have also realized that they belong nowhere on production vehicles.
Next Gen Aesthetics
As has become a common theme with the Next Gen car, NASCAR literally went out of its way to ensure the new cars looked as though their drivers drove them to the track 10 minutes after leaving a dealership. Only the tires and the safety components give away that the cars belong on a NASCAR track.
Aluminum, not steel, wheels further allowed the cars to look like they were plucked off of an assembly line. If you looked at a side-by-side between NASCAR’s steel wheels on previous generations versus aluminum, it is no contest as to what looks more like a road vehicle.
The aluminum wheel wins out. But, going with the old 5-lug nut method NASCAR used for decades would not suffice with the softer aluminum wheels. This forced them to go with the single lug.
And while aluminum wheels look better and are safer with the single lug nut, they are also more expensive. Which came as a catch-22 for NASCAR, since they wanted their cars to look like showroom vehicles yet they also wanted to drive down their hefty prices.
The Single Lug Nut And Lower Costs
This is where the single lug nut method further helped NASCAR’s quest to further lower costs. To keep teams from constantly replacing wheels, installing them with a single lug nut also helped prolong their life spans.
It all started with the tire changers in the pits. The old method of changing tires for NASCAR teams involved the tire changer unscrewing and re-screwing the lug nuts in a clockwise manner, different from the star method you would use on a production car.
The problem was, if just one of the lug nuts were not tightened completely, the car would have tire problems and it would perhaps damage the wheel. This is far less likely to happen with the single lug nut. Therefore, the single lug nut prolongs the aluminum wheels, lowering costs in the long run.
You can see the differences between the wheels on the Next Gen car and previous generations when you catch a video of a NASCAR pit stop. When you watch the stop closely, you will also notice how much quicker the single lug nut allows for a faster, more efficient tire change.
NASCAR’s Next Gen car uses 18-inch forged aluminum wheels. However, in the past, NASCAR used 15-inch steel wheels. With emphasis put on making their vehicle look more like production counterparts, NASCAR decided to go with forged aluminum, single lug nut wheels provided by BBS Inc.
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