NTT IndyCar Series season teams will need to adjust their routines when the action gets under way next week at Texas, as drivers are being asked to limit tire use to 35 laps with each set of Firestones during the Genesys 300.
The mandate comes as IndyCar makes its 2020 debut on the fast Texas oval, where unused alternate tires from last year’s race will be utilized at the June 6 event. With work stoppages throughout the country in recent months due to the coronavirus, Firestone’s plans to produce new tires for the Texas race were derailed, which led to the workaround that has been implemented.
According to a number of race engineers, the right-hand tires are expected to deliver grip and wear characteristics that are nearly identical to what was found last June; the left-hand tires, built for the Indy 500, could be consumed at a higher rate than the rights. Along with the race debut for IndyCar’s new, 60-pound aeroscreen, changes in each Dallara DW12’s center of gravity have also been factored into the tire variables that resulted in the conservative approach taken with the 35-lap limit per set.
“We worked with IndyCar to develop a plan for the race considering the limitations we’ve all been facing with the pandemic,” Firestone Racing chief engineer Cara Adams told RACER. “We analyzed the data that we have from both testing with added weight and increased center of gravity height to simulate the new aeroscreen and racing at Texas Motor Speedway to inform our collective decision. The left-side tires are race-proven from Indy and the right-side tire specs were part of the test at TMS last August where those aeroscreen effects were simulated.”
Overall tire usage will also be part of the strategy at Texas as each entry will have nine new sets to managed throughout practice, qualifying, and the race. With the Genesys 300 set for 200 laps, the 35-lap limit means six sets will be required to complete the race.
At the 2019 Texas race, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden made four pit stops on the road to victory in the No. 2 Chevy; the second- and third-place drivers made three. It was common for drivers to run more than 60 laps on a set of tires before refueling was needed, which suggests their fuel tanks will be nearly half-full when they reach the 35-lap limit and receive the call to stop for a fresh set.
As a result of the shortened pit stop windows, teams could employ a variety of race strategy options where skipping refueling could be an option on one or more occasions. Factor in caution periods that will inevitably interrupt full 35-lap runs, and keeping track of tire lap counts will be a critical aspect in how the Texas race is executed.