Rick Salter talks dirt late model tire rules

Tire rules, tire prep and cheating chemicals discussed with Rick Salter

Rick Salter has been racing for 17 years, of which, 14 have been spent behind the wheel of a dirt late model. His career began at Highland Speedway in Illinois. In 2007, he was the track champion at the Illinois bullring.

Tire Rules

“Me personally, as a low budget racer I’d like to see a hard tire rule. Like the MARS series does, with the 55’s or 40’s, all the way around the car,” Salter states from his Illinois racing shop.

“It takes some horsepower away from the car, because you can’t get it all the way to the ground. We race a lot with the MARS Series, you can tell the difference when you race with them guys. It takes a lot of the motor, out of play. The guys who got the $40-50,000 motor, it doesn’t matter.”

Everything with good tech, is solved.

-Rick Salter

“Then prep comes into play. A lot of guys say, ‘You’re going to see guys prepping more.’ But, everything with good tech, is solved.”

“My problem with the tire… Is the way it’s made. If we went with a tread design like the 55, where it’s pre-grooved or even if we went back to the chain-link design. It had a lot more edges and stuff to work with. It was just a better tire.”

Rick Salter was prepared for the no-grooving, no siping rule to take effect. Before the rule came into place, the team did select testing. In a local show, Rick Salter Racing would put an un-touched tire on the right year, just to see what happened. In a situation where the night wasn’t going so well, they decided to go testing. They were preparing for the rule to take effect.

Related: Rick Salter on cutting costs in dirt late model racing

Rick Salter preps dirt late model tires at Belle Clair Speedway 2342
Rick Salter preps dirt late model tires at Belle Clair Speedway

Making dirt late model tires last

“The problem to me, what we found when we ran the no-groove stuff is you have to be a team that can afford to keep putting new tires on the car. The little bit of groove they give you, once it’s gone, the tires no good.”

We can re-groove them and get more life out of the tire.

-Rick Salter

“Allowing us to groove them… We can re-groove them and get more life out of the tire. Once the groove fall off, the tire falls off. Once that factory groove is gone, the big guys are getting rid of the tire, it’s junk. But, there’s still quite a bit of rubber there.”

Rick Salter told me he can get 8 nights out of a tire. That came as a surprise to me. On the national scene, they throw them out after every race. Other guys, put on new tires every time the car touches the race track.

“I can groove and sipe one in 45 minutes. Some of those guys, they’re perfectionists. That tire doesn’t know that. It doesn’t know if that line is perfectly straight. That car is never perfectly square at the racetrack.”

“Me, I’m going to go back through the tire, re-groove it and I’m going to get more life out of the tire. We typically run two nights with a groove. Then, re-groove it and get another couple of nights.”

“That no groove, no sipe works for them guys because they’re going to replace that tire. They’re going to run it one race, maybe two. Max two. Then, they’re done with it. We’re going to run multiple races, then put a groove through it again.”

“Up until this year, we ran most of our 15 years on used tires. We went two and a half years without buying a new tire. I bought 3 pallets of tires from Clint Bowyer Racing, 3 years ago. I just used the last one up.”

“I bought 4 used tires from Billy Moyer Jr, this year. I can buy them for $25/tire. If you buy more you can usually get them cheaper. If I want 1 tire it’ll be $40. Well, that $25 tire, I can put it on for 1, maybe 2 races then I can throw it away and I don’t feel bad about it.”

I have separation anxiety about it.

-Rick Salter

“I see these guys run one or two races on a brand new tire, then take it off.. I’m like, ‘I don’t know how you do that.’ I have separation anxiety about it.”

“I kid you not. The right front that we ran at the Lucas Oil race. I just marked it, it’s got a hole in the side of it and I about cried. Something punctured the side of it. It was leakin’ and I about cried.”

Rick Salter Rusty Schlenk Belle-Clair Speedway Photos 2558
Rick Salter and Rusty Schlenk at Belle-Clair Speedway

“They gotta find a common denominator between the national guys and the regional guys. The regional drivers like Brian Shirley, Jason Feger, Shannon Babb and them guys are regional travelers. Them guys are gunna go run the Summer Nationals and have one tire rule, then they’ll go over to Lucas Oil and have another tire rule, then they’ll go over here and run this with another tire rule.”

“That’s a problem. Like World of Outlaws or Lucas Oil comes in paying $10,000 to win, they have 28 cars. That’s low. We took our tires after The Dome race, set them off to the side. We had stuff left over. We used that stuff to prepared for the tire rule, which never came.”

“If you can’t get on a playing field where the regional racer can race and afford to… The fans are going to come out and watch the 12 World of Outlaws guys race around the racetrack and that’s all the cars they got. 2 or 3 heats races and a feature. The regional guys can’t afford to do it.”

“The national guys love this rule because they got less work to do. They’re on the road a lot. I understand some of the gist of it. The problem is, there’s gotta be a line that brings the regional racer and the traveler, together.”

How do you bring the regional and national drivers together?

“You know, I don’t know. I think Hoosier’s gotta step in and help the regional racer. We all know that World of Outlaw and Lucas Oil guys get deals on tires. They’re running the series, this is what they’re doing for a living, I’m not knocking on them. Somewhere in there, a regional racer needs some help.”

“If you run 20 UMP shows you should get a discount on some tires. Somewhere, they gotta help the regional racer get deals on tires too. If I’m only going to run 5 nights a year, I don’t see where they need a deal on tires. But if I’m gunna run 30 nights a year, or 60 nights a year. They need to get kickbacks on the tires too.”

“Maybe after you run so many nights you get $5-10 off a tire. With a hard tire, you’re going to get a little bit more life out of it too.”

Rick Salter at the Gateway Dirt Nationals6687
Rick Salter at the Gateway Dirt Nationals in December 2016

“If I didn’t run The Dome race, we wouldn’t have gone to the Lucas Oil show at Tri-City Speedway. I had tires left over. It would have been upwards of $1,000 worth of tires, just to run that race. For $800 to start. You’d have 4 tires on the car, then two spare rear tires for compound options.”

Limiting the use of tires in a single night, “If you go to a hard tire, you could stamp the tires and mark the tires. We ran the CARS series, it’s a crate series. They would stamp your tires and mark your tires. They’d durometer your tires to make sure they passed. Just to make sure you haven’t softened the tires.”

On the local level I’m not sure if no groove no sipe will work.

-Rick Salter

“On the local level I’m not sure if no groove no sipe will work. Once factory groove is gone tire isn’t much good. I’d like to see a factory pre grooved tire like the LM 55. The pattern worked in all conditions and tire wore good. It was a hard compound tire so it helps take some horsepower away from big money guys. But with that, there has to be tire tech.”

Related: “I was robbed of my biggest win ever” -Zack Dohm

Related: “I have asked from day one to let me clear my name by taking a polygraph test” -Chris Madden

Related: Five drivers fail 2018 Eldora Dream tire test

Related: Driver fails tire test at Senoia Raceway

Tire cheating chemicals

He’s been racing dirt late models since 2000. Rick Salters says he’s never cheated a tire. However, that doesn’t mean he’s now aware of what the other guys are doing.

“If you go to a super hard tire, people prep them and cheat ’em up. That is the worst thing in the world,” Bob Salter states concerns.

We don’t even run go-karts on dirt because that shit is so bad. It will give you cancer.

-Bob Salter

“We don’t even run go-karts on dirt because that shit is so bad. It will give you cancer. These guys down at the [go-kart] track have gloves on and respirators and everything else.”

“Even if you were going to make prepping legal, the guys that don’t want to mess with it, he’s out of luck. Plus, if you’re going to do that to the inside of the tire and the outside of a tire, how much is your expense now? You have to have a full-time guy, just to do tires.”

If they opened the rulebook and say ‘tire prep is now legal’ they’d run into other issues. Hoosier has a warning for tire prep. If you chemically treat a tire, Hoosier isn’t responsible for what happens, that’s in print. In the case that a tire explodes, it wouldn’t stop people from trying to sue Hoosier Racing Tire. So, that’s why Hoosier doesn’t like an open tire prep rule.

You know, it’s like chemical warfare.

-Bob Salter

“What they need to do, is go to a harder tire. Then, put something in that tire. So, if they do anything to it, it turns pink or green or something. You know, it’s like chemical warfare,” Bob Salter talks dirt racing tires.

If you got a test strip, in a tire, it comes up a different color.

-Bob Salter

“If you got a test strip, in a tire, it comes up a different color. Hey, you got them right away.”

Related: Zack Dohm talks dirt late model tire testing procedures

The local tracks don’t want to test these tires. It’s too expensive for them to send these tires off the to lab. Plus, that’s a really good way to piss people off which most tracks aren’t fond of doing. But, if you make it black and white with a built in test strip, the track officials are off the hook.

We’re a small time team but even we hear stuff.

-Rick Salter

“We’re a small time team but even we hear stuff. When they’re seeing stuff, guys are just getting slapped on the wrist. They’re getting told, ‘Clean up your act.’ There’s issues there too. It’s gotta start from the top,” Rick Salter states.

“You can’t be worried about losing a top tier driver if he’s doing something wrong. There was a big discrepancy at Pevely with the width of a sipe during the Outlaw show. There were other series officials that wanted it disqualified. It was kinda ignored because of the people that were involved in it. What your name is and who you are shouldn’t matter.”

“Lucas Oil tech’d us and they were super nice about it. Lucas Oil was awesome, ‘Hey, you gotta move that fender a little bit.” Cool, no problem. I can do that.”


Rick Salter | Shane Walters