Before action got underway at IMS, Simon Pagenaudâs race engineer Ben Bretzman told Motorsport.com: âThe drivers are going to have to really manage their tires so they donât fall off a cliff in the last 10 laps of a stint.
âAnd then thereâs the dirty air issue. In recent years at Indy, weâve seen drivers happy to run in the wake of another car to save fuel and go a lap longer on a stint, but they may want to rethink that if its causing the car to slide around and accelerating tire deg. Even the leader is going to have to think about it, too: where do you want to position the car in traffic?â
Yet last week Rahalâs teammate at Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda, 2017 Indy winner Takuma Sato, said the track surface treatment carried out at IMS last fall had helped offset the extra demands put on the tires this year by the increased weight and altered weight distribution caused by the aeroscreen. The lack of degradation, said Sato, had made it extremely tough to pass.
Rahalâs opinion falls somewhere between the two, believing Firestone has delivered the right blend of consistency through a stint and still enough
âI donât know if itâs the pavement treatment, I donât know if we can identify that as the fix or the improvement,â he said, âbut either way, I donât think [tire deg] has been as bad as anticipated. I think Firestone has produced a pretty competitive tire for us to go race with. They worked pretty hard on getting this car to continue rotating through the corner.
âThere is a lot more weight, there is a lot more movement, there is a lot more aero disruption, but I thought last Sunday afternoon when we all turned to race running there was a lot more passing, a lot more activity than I expected.
âSo I think they made the right moves and I think itâll be an exciting show.
2008 Indy winner for Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda Scott Dixon stated: âI feel like they’ve been really consistent. The step that Firestone made last year was pretty significant.
âI think the 2018 tire was pretty tough, especially when you got in traffic. It seemed like you would blow through it pretty quick, especially mid-turn to exit. They definitely [fixed] that in ’19. For ’20, it’s the same tire and itâs been pretty consistent.
âYou get a good maybe five, seven or eight laps where there’s a little bit of grip, then it kind of falls off a little. For us at least, it’s pretty much the same until you run out of fuel. Tires seem pretty good this year.â
Josef Newgarden, highest-placed of Team Penske-Chevroletâs runners on the grid, observed: âIâd say the tire degradation is slightly worse. I think the tires are just more saturated. It doesnât matter that the distribution is more forward. Overall the tires are working harder, and thatâs some of what you saw in qualifying depending on how trimmed out you were. It was just harder to put four laps together, so we were dropping off more on the third and fourth laps than we would be normally â even people who werenât that trimmed.
âSo I think in race trim on the back end of the stint, you will see a little higher tire deg. But having said that, I donât think youâre going to see a huge departure from last yearâs race. I think the car will race very similar to last year, but just in those last 10 laps of a stint youâre going to notice a bit more degradation.â
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