June 29, 2022

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IndyCar, track officials work overtime to fix pit problems

3 min read

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — IndyCar officials and representatives of tire manufacturer Firestone worked into early Thursday morning repairing Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s warmup lane to add more grip to the area after three Indianapolis 500 winners spun during the first of two days of testing.

Drivers were caught off-guard by the conditions leaving pit road.

Will Power, the 2018 Indy winner, said it felt like water when he ran through the area that sent him spinning toward the first turn. Power’s car forced promising 22-year-old Colton Herta to drive higher onto the track, sending Herta’s car into the wall.

Following that crash, the second in less than an hour, series officials stopped the testing to conduct a more thorough inspection by series and track officials. What they determined was the Rapid Penetrating Emulsion applied last fall provided less grip in the track’s apron than on the track.

The solution: Dragging tires through the warmup lane through the first two turns — where all three spins occurred — in hopes of producing a less eventful second round of testing.


“We did some tire dragging till about 1 o’clock last night,” speedway president Doug Boles said at the start of Thursday’s broadcast. “The eye test tells you the grip level will be back up, the tennis shoe test tells you it will be.”

But early morning rain forced dryers onto the track and delayed the start of the testing. It’s not the first time cars have had trouble at Indianapolis.

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Only six Formula One cars started the 2005 U.S. Grand Prix over concerns that Michelin’s tires would not last longer than 10 laps. Three years later, NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 was marred by a similar problem with its Goodyear tires. Both of those races were held on the Brickyard’s historic 2.5-mile oval.

Then last year, Cup drivers ran on Indy’s road course for the first time and that race was marred by a problem with deteriorating curbing that sent some cars airborne and damaged others late in the race.

After the race was stopped, track workers removed the curb so the 200-mile race could finish.

Then came Wednesday.

Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy winner, spun coming out of the pits for their first laps of the day. With about 80 minutes left in the third and final two-hour test session, Brazil’s Helio Castroneves, one of four four-time Indy winners, also spun. It sent him sliding through the grass and into the wall in the second turn.

Castroneves and Herta were both examined at the track’s infield medical center and released shortly after they hit the wall. Both were cleared to drive for Thursday’s test session.

“Very strange,” said Castroneves, who was driving the same car he used to win last year’s race. “I wasn’t pushing, I wasn’t even trying. It was very unusual. I don’t know if you guys saw but I was like ‘I can’t believe what just happened.’”

Boles said he called Castroneves to apologize.

“First of all, I take this so personally because you want this to be the most special trace track in the world,” Boles said. “We weren’t completely worried when Rossi spun because it was early in the morning and you think it’s cold but when you have three experienced drivers spin, that’s a concern.

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“What I want and, I’m sure we can solve by race day, is you want to get in and our of the pits as fast as you can go,” Boles added.

This year’s Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 29.

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