Tire Strategy at the forefront of Iowa Storylines

Tire Strategy
Simon Pagenaud runs the track at Iowa Speedway in practice ahead of Saturday's Iowa 300. Photo courtesy of IndyCar.

In a series like IndyCar that doesn’t use stage racing, tire strategy usually comes into play when determining who will win the race beyond the fastest car.

This weekend in Newton, Iowa with weather in the mid-to-upper 90’s, it is at the forefront of discussions.

The series took to the track on Friday morning for an early practice before qualifying in the heat at 1:00 p.m. and drivers like rookie Felix Rosenqvist said the tire fall off between the first lap and the rest of them is drastic.

“I think it’s about finding the car that works wherever you want to drive,” Rosenqvist said. “If you have a car that’s only good on the second lane and then you go into the first, you’ll have a bunch of understeer and just eat through the tires. If you can find a setup your car works everywhere, your tires [are going to] fall off less.”

Rosenqvist ended qualifying in P15.

Series veterans are used to the heat causing massive falloff, however.

“It tends to amplify understeer, especially in qualifying when it’s hotter,” 2017 NTT Data IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden said. “It amplifies tire wear, too. That’s the biggest thing.”

The series will have what could be considered an extra practice tonight at 7:15 p.m. ET, to better reflect what the racing will be like on Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m.

“I think our practice two tonight will give us a really good read of what we’re going to have for tomorrow’s race,” Newgarden, who will start P3 on Saturday, said.

Temperature is expected to drop 8-10 degrees for Saturday’s race, but with heat indexes factored in, the track will still be extremely hot.

Polesitter Simon Pagenaud even insisted that whoever manages their tires the best on Saturday will win the race.

“Absolutely, yeah,” Pagenaud said. “[Tire strategy will be a big deal]. “The juice of the tire only lasts one lap. Which is expected with the level of downforce we have – it’s really low and it’s a very abrasive racetrack. So, degradation is going to be everything. You’re going to have degradation no matter what, but the car that has the least degradation is going to be the one that wins the race.”

Starting between Pagenaud and Newgarden is their teammate, Will Power.

It sets up a Team Penske 1-2-3 start for Saturday.

“There’s very strong competition within the team,” Pagenaud said. “But as you can see, Team Penske is phenomenal. They give us the fastest car. I think Team Chevy also has a big part in this. They’ve made such an improvement since Toronto. Definitely seem to have the upper hand right now. So thanks to them for doing that.”

Team Penske has won two of the past eight races as well as five of the past eight stretching back to Pagenaud’s sweep of the month of May.

On top of it, it’s the team’s fifth straight pole at Iowa Speedway.

When it comes to them at this time of the season – during the dog days of summer – they know where to find success.

“Team Penske, man, they keep plugging away all season long,” Pagenaud said. “We’re really right now hitting our stride. Definitely happy to be ahead of my teammates. Josef is main competition this year. I got to grab any points I can get, be aggressive, show authority. That’s what we’re trying to do with the No. 22 car.”

Saturday’s race is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. ET green flag and will be televised by NBCSN.

Iowa 300 Starting Lineup
1. Simon Pagenaud
2. Will Power
3. Josef Newgarden
4. Takuma Sato
5. James Hinchcliffe
6. Alexander Rossi
7. Graham Rahal
8. Scott Dixon
9. Ryan Hunter-Reay
10. Marcus Ericsson
11. Colton Herta
12. Santino Ferrucci
13. Tony Kanaan
14. Sage Karam
15. Felix Rosenqvist
16. Conor Daly
17. Ed Carpenter
18. Marco Andretti
19. Spencer Pigot
20. Zach Veach
21. Sebastien Bourdais
22. Matheus Leist

NTT Data IndyCar Series Standings
Position Driver Points Behind
1 Josef Newgarden 434
2 Alexander Rossi 430 -4
3 Simon Pagenaud 395 -39
4 Scott Dixon 348 -86
5 Will Power 306 -128
6 Takuma Sato 301 -133
7 Ryan Hunter-Reay 285 -149
8 Graham Rahal 266 -168
9 James Hinchcliffe 244 -190
10 Felix Rosenqvist 239 -195

FULL STANDINGS

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