Indianapolis test zeroes in on 2017 tire specification

Sponsorless Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi testing tires at Indy
Sponsorless Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi testing tires at Indy

Six Verizon IndyCar Series drivers turned laps Monday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval as part of a test to determine Firestone's tire specification for the 2017 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ed Carpenter, owner/driver of the team bearing his name, were the primary tire testers for the daylong session, running through an assortment of experimental compounds and constructions. Also turning laps in IMS team testing were Chip Ganassi Racing's Tony Kanaan, Team Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal and Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian's Alexander Rossi.

Kanaan (2013), Hunter-Reay (2014), Montoya (2015) and Rossi (2016) represent the last four Indianapolis 500 winners.

"Firestone's always looking to put an even better product than they already have on the racetrack, so they're always developing – just like we are," said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda. "We're always developing our car and setups; they're always developing their product.

"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."

Hunter-Reay and two-time Indy 500 pole winner Carpenter, in the No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet, spent the morning alternating short runs on a "control set" of Firehawk tires – the 2016 Indy 500 specification – and experimental sets that varied in tread compound and/or construction on at least one tire position. The afternoon was reserved for full-stint runs on a few preferred specs from the morning, as Carpenter said, "to kind of close the loop on the tires that they think they might want to move forward with.

Rossi happy to be back at Indy
Rossi happy to be back at Indy

"Firestone's a great partner for INDYCAR so to be part of helping them come back here with another great tire for next year is always rewarding."

According to Dale Harrigle, chief engineer and manager of race tire development for Bridgestone Americas, today's testing regimen was smaller in scope than some years due to how well the 2016 Indy spec functioned.

"We were very happy with the performance of the tire in 2016 so we actually came with a relatively small test," Harrigle said. "We only have two (experimental) right-side compounds and a couple of constructions, so it's a pretty small, focused test for us this year."

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