Stagger referrers to the circumference of the wheels on the right side of an oval track race car compared to the size of the tires on the left. This difference in size may look strange on a car but is a necessity in handling. Types of cars that use stagger are sprint cars, midgets, some stock cars and anything else that might race on an oval track. The size difference allows the smaller tire on the left to turn the same amount of revolutions as the larger tire on the right as the car makes left turns. Often times there is one size right wheel that is used and the left is changed out to manipulate the handling.
To measure stagger, take the circumference of the larger tire (it will always be the one on the right) and subtract the circumference of the tire on the left. That difference in inches is how much stagger is being run.
If this difference is too large the race car is considered ‘loose’, meaning the car will have the natural inclination to turn left all the time. This becomes a problem onstraightaways of an oval because the driver has to fight the car to go straight in that part of the track. If the car doesn’t have enough stagger, then it is considered ‘tight’. This means that the car will want to push itself up into the wall and has to be coaxed into the turn. This can be equally dangerous.
Important factors when determining stagger are the track temperature and air pressure. The tires will inflate on their own once they are heated so there needs to be enough leeway in order to grow to the desired size. The one way to master this tricky circle track concept is to measure the tires after the car comes in off the track. If the appraisal is the car is too loose, then take some stagger out and try again and visa versa if the car is deemed too tight.