Drivers, Firestone get jump start on 2017 Indy 500 with IMS tire test

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This time of year is similar to summer school final exams for drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Several drivers have or will take part in a number of tests as the schedule moves into the final quarter of the season.

Last Thursday, numerous teams tested at Pocono Raceway. Thursday, more will test at Watkins Glen.

And Monday, several teams took part in a closed Firestone tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The test was to examine different compounds to potentially be used in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and compare them with the tires used in this year’s 500.

Among drivers that participated were Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Juan Pablo Montoya, reigning Indianapolis 500 champ Alexander Rossi and Ed Carpenter.

“Kind of a typical tire test, really,” Dale Harrigle, chief engineer and manager of race tire development for Bridgestone Americas said during Monday’s test. “A couple right-side compounds, we have a couple construction options.”

Hunter-Reay and Carpenter were the primary drivers in Monday’s test, while the other participants also contributed their feedback, as well.

“We’re always developing our car and setups; they’re always developing their product,” Hunter-Reay said of Firestone. “It’s just great testing Firestone tires because I always have 100 percent confidence in them. There’s not going to be any big surprises out there. It’s just constant development, going faster and faster.”

Added Carpenter, “For me, I know I love doing this. … It’s always a great opportunity to work with Firestone and test tires. When we come to these tests, there’s a lot of controlled runs. Every run we do is the same amount of laps and they brought quite a few different types of tires here.

“Sometimes it will be one tire, sometimes it will be a couple tires that are different from the control tire which was the 2016 Indy 500 race tire. You work through those changes, jump back to a control (set), just give them feedback on what you’re feeling. I don’t really like to know necessarily what I’m testing, I just like to go out and feel what the car is doing and give them that honest, raw feedback.”

The day-long test started with short runs in the morning, followed by data examination, driver feedback and then long runs in the afternoon.

Admittedly, the mood Monday was somber, as drivers recalled one of their fallen competitors, Bryan Clauson, who died Sunday after being involved in a Midget car crash in Kansas Saturday night.

Clauson finished 23rd in this year’s 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, lived in suburban Indianapolis and was close to a number of drivers in the IndyCar series.

“It’s a difficult situation for everybody to go through but our job today is to focus on this car,” Rahal said. “We came back here to test to try to improve as much as we can. In light of everything else, this is what we’ve got to focus on right now.”

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