INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens

INDYCAR, Firestone prepared if tires ‘blister’ at Texas

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FORT WORTH, Texas – In an attempt to avoid a situation experienced last year when the Firestone Firehawk tires “blistered” at Texas Motor Speedway, INDYCAR and the tire manufacturer came prepared for Thursday night’s practice.

Two different tire compounds are in the garage area as NTT IndyCar Series teams prepared for a two-hour practice session scheduled to get underway at 8 p.m. Eastern Time Thursday. Each team has 14 sets of the “primary” tire compounds, but if any teams experience blistering issues in the two-hour practice, there are 11 sets of an “alternate” tire compound available per team.

INDYCAR will also extend the practice session if teams have to use the “alternate” tires.

If there are no issues with the primary tire compound, the alternate tires will not be brought out and the teams will prepare for this weekend’s DXC Technology 600 as usual with one tire compound used for practice, qualifications and Saturday’s race.

The tires would be used on the right-side of the car.

“We tested in October and Texas is a pretty severe track with pretty severe temperatures, we tested several compounds and we had a lot of blistering in that test,” Cara Adams, Chief Engineer, Bridgestone Americas, told NBCSports.com. “We had one compound that didn’t blister, but the teams didn’t like it that much. We went back for a second test in March. It was a little cooler, but we developed several compounds that didn’t blister at all.

“Our race tire here is a much cooler running and faster wearing tire. We don’t expect to see blistering on that primary tire. Doing our due diligence and being very prepared we came up with a backup tire.”

Firestone notified the teams last week at Detroit that an additional tire would be made available if there are issues with the primary tire across the field.

“If there are no issues, there are no reason we will run the alternate tires,” Adams said. “Teams have 14 sets for the race weekend. If they switch to the backup tire, they will use two sets tonight and have nine sets of tires for the race itself.”

This is also the first time in at least 15 years that a Thursday night test has been added to the IndyCar schedule at the 1.5-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway. Saturday’s race will be contested at relatively the same time period as Thursday night’s test – 7 to 9 p.m. Central Time.

Since then, practice and qualifications would be held on Friday during the daytime and the race would be held Saturday night.

“We work really closely with IndyCar and decided to have this practice to make sure we were prepared,” Adams said. “The challenge for Texas is to come up with a tire that wears sufficiently but does not blister. It’s something our compounders have worked together with compounders across the Bridgestone organization to come up with a tire that wears more quickly.

“The aero specifications have changed a little bit and the track has lost grip from last year, so it will be interesting to see what the conditions are tonight. We made sure we met with the chief engineer and team manager from each team to make sure they had no concerns and were grateful we had a plan for a backup tire.”

Rob Edwards, Chief Operating Officer at Andretti Autosport and race strategist for Alexander Rossi, was blunt with his thoughts on the tire situation.

“I prefer we have one tire (compound) and just get on with it,” Edwards told NBCSports.com.

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.