FORT WORTH, TX – The annual NTT IndyCar Series stop to the Texas Motor Speedway is one that normally keeps Firestone on their toes. See, it’s a tough track for the tire manufacturer to figure out. The drivers and teams want some sort of tire deg in order to create separation around the 1.5-mile oval.
They don’t want a pack race anymore. So, in order to get cars spread out, you can’t allow the drivers to hold the throttle wide open. With a newly paved race track in recent years, in order to make drivers lift off the gas, is to take away downforce and make sure that the grip levels of the tires fall off as a run goes on as well.
Seems simple right?
Well, it’s not. You have to get it right as there’s not much margin for error in either direction. Not enough deg and you’re heading towards a pack race. Too much deg and you get a snoozefest the other way.
Plus, with Texas’ extreme temperatures in June, you get blistering on these tires. Think about it. High temperatures make the fresh asphalt grippy yet slippery too. With the Indy Car’s producing enough downforce to grip the track more than a lot of other series’ still, the tires get a lot of friction which causes….blistering.
So, Firestone came prepared this weekend. Last year, we saw blistering and they don’t want that to happen again. So, an updated tire was rolled out for Thursday night’s practice. Each team gets 14 sets of these tires. But, if they noticed blistering on the tires again, Firestone brought enough for teams to have 11 sets each of an “alternate tire” that could alleviate those problems.
The big problem though was that they never got enough data on Thursday to decide if they need to make a tire change. Rain interrupted the session twice, with the latter ending the practice 40 minutes early.
With Friday’s schedule not allowing for a night practice due to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, practicing the initial tire during the heat of the day will give false data in terms of tire wear because they will obviously wear much faster during the heat of the day than at night.