Which Nitto Tires are Best for Pavement Diesel Drag Racing?
Diesel drag racing has really taken off in recent years. The ability to work a diesel truck Monday through Friday and then hit the drag strip for a little racing on the weekend is unique to this particular niche. Especially in the case of late-model trucks, very little has to be changed to take things from tow-rig status to race mode. And if you can go from work to play on the same set of tires, it’s all the better. In E.T. Bracket classes, where you’re most likely to see work trucks doubling as weekend warriors, Nitto’s Terra Grappler G2 has found a home. For diesels in the sub-700hp zone, the next-generation all-terrains have no problem hooking and getting the 8,000-pound trucks above them off the line.
For entry-level drag racers to more experienced index racers, Nitto’s NT420S all season has been a mainstay in diesel drag racing for well over a decade now. The NT420S is particularly popular in the higher horsepower, 7.70 Index class, where even traction in four-wheel drive can be hard to come by. Most recently, the release of the NT420V—successor to the NT420S but with a stronger sidewall—has been successfully marketed to the diesel crowd. Available in many OE and plus sizes (even in F load range), the NT420V might just be the next big thing in ¾-ton and larger truck tires. For more on how these track-preferred tread patterns perform when it counts, keep scrolling.
Most Popular: NT420S
You can’t attend a diesel event these days without noticing loads of trucks on Nitto NT420S tread. Whether they’re entered in the show ‘n shine, sitting in the parking lot or lined up in the staging lanes, there is never a shortage of trucks sporting this long-revered all season. The NT420S caught on hard years ago when drag racers found that, in addition to its superb wet weather performance and ride quality, it hooked great at the track. Its soft compound, siping across the tread pattern and large outer tread blocks provide plenty of contact with the road, which makes the NT420S one of the grippiest light truck tires on the market.
Traction & Affordability
Thanks to its ability to hook much better than other year-round tires, the NT420S allows owners of higher horsepower trucks that are on the verge of breaking traction to forgo purchasing slicks. This saves them the steps of having to swap wheels and tires at the track or before making the trip home. And not only do the 420S’s make 1.6 to 1.8-second 60-foots possible on most index trucks, they’re much more affordable than the all-terrains or mud terrains you typically find on diesels. One of the most popular sizes of the NT420S for the diesel segment, the 305/50R20 version, can be had for roughly $175 apiece (vs. $300 plus for a comparably sized A/T or M/T).
Grip on the Dyno
Even though Jason Lewis ran a set of cheater slicks to get his lightweight, nitrous-fed Cummins-powered ’06 Dodge 3500 into the 8’s, NT420S tread got the call when it was time to showcase what the truck could do on the dyno. Just like the drag strip, the chassis dyno is a place where traction is key if you want to lay down the best possible number. With the NT420S’s in the mix, Lewis’ Ram laid down 1,446rwhp at the 2018 running of the Ultimate Callout Challenge Qualifier. If you noticed the 5-lug bolt pattern you’re not alone, the factory AAM 1150 was ditched in favor of a done-up Ford 9-inch to save weight without sacrificing strength.
Competing Center Stage
Another U.C.C. qualifier, Dan Lee, trusted the NT420S tread pattern to get him down the track. He was able to put together an 11.22-second pass through the 1320, make 866 hp and 1,322 lb-ft of torque on the dyno and finish midpack overall in a tough, 25-truck field.
Pushing the Limits
For four-digit horsepower street trucks, one of the only tires that offers a fighting chance of finding traction is the NT420S. Brett Jones relied on a 305/50R20 set to get his 1,200rwhp ‘07 Dodge Mega Cab to hook. The compound turbo’d 5.9L Cummins and full-billet 48RE transmission combination gave the 32-inch, 12.44-inch wide rubber everything it could handle, but even with conservative launches at the track the truck would’ve easily been capable of running 10’s.
Making Big Horsepower Usable
One more example of a nasty street truck testing the limits of Nitto’s NT420S is this ’08 Super Duty. Benefitting from a built 6.4L Power Stroke treated to dual injection pumps, 150-percent over injectors and a 63mm/88mm compound turbo arrangement, it sends a dyno-proven 1,089 hp to the rear tires. However, applying that kind of power (along with the 1,900 lb-ft of torque it belts out) to the pavement in two-wheel drive is a fool’s errand. But with the transfer case locked in 4-Hi, the repurposed plow truck pulls like a freight train from 0-140 mph.
Terra Grappler G2: Bracket Racing Approved
Adam Doan is a talented drag racer who regularly competes in the Outlaw Diesel Super Series’ E.T. Bracket and 7.70 Index classes with success. In E.T. Bracket, he sends this crew cab 6.0L Power Stroke-powered Super Duty down the track on Terra Grappler G2’s. Of course, this is usually after he’s unloaded both of the trucks he towed to the event and unhooked the F-250 from the gooseneck. Thanks to his driving skill and consistent traction from the G2’s, it’s not uncommon to see Adam go rounds and make it into eliminations.
The All-Terrain That Truly Does It All
It goes without saying that an all-terrain will be a strong performer in a variety of conditions, but many don’t realize how well the Terra Grappler G2 hooks on pavement. To be sure, this tire has its limitations, but as long as you don’t overpower it the G2 will reward you with ultra-consistent 60-foots. For sub-700rwhp work trucks that race on the side, this is one of the best bang-for-the-buck tires on the market.
Improving on the NT420S: Introducing the NT420V
Building on what Nitto learned about the NT420S’s immense popularity in the ¾-ton and larger truck segment, the NT420V was born. Aesthetically pleasing, featuring an asymmetrical tread pattern and available in virtually every common size from 20 to 24-inch wheels, the NT420V has been well-received in the diesel world thus far. One key advantage the NT420V has over the NT420S is its stronger, stouter sidewall construction. In fact, four of its LT-metric sizes even come with an F load range rating.
A High Performance Yet Tow-Ready Tire
Thanks in large part to its more rigid sidewall, the NT420V allows you to tow at your truck’s maximum GCWR and remain safe while doing it. This is a huge deal for late-model diesels, all of which can lug more than 20,000 pounds by way of the gooseneck hitch and the newest dual rear wheel versions boasting 30,000-plus pound capability. One of the most popular sizes you’ll find at the drag strip is pictured here, the 33.2-inch, 305/55R20, which brandishes a 3,640-pound load capacity.
Coming to a Track Near You
With the aforementioned 305/55R20 NT420V’s under his 11-second capable, ’06 Dodge Ram 2500, Trent Skinner has been competing in the 7.70 Index class (an extremely popular eighth-mile racing category in the ODSS organization). Of course, if he needs to tow at the truck’s max capacity, the F load range tires are right at home there, too. Due to its obvious versatility (traction, towing, quietness, tread wear), look for the NT420V to replace the NT420S as the go-to all season tire in the years ahead.
Select photography provided by Amy Gilbert of Stainless Diesel
Curious which Nitto shines most in the dirt? In the world of diesel truck pulling the Mud Grappler is a bastion when it comes to battling the iron sled.