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IndyCar Gateway

First-ever IndyCar alternate oval tire puts teams on red alert in St Louis

IndyCar’s first-ever oval race using Firestone’s alternate-compound tire will “keep everyone on their toes” this weekend in St Louis, according to Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward.

Firestone

Only two sets of the softer, red-walled alternate rubber will be made available to teams at World Wide Technology Raceway. They have been instructed to keep one set for the race and, unlike road and street courses, are banned from using them in qualifying.

This means they will only get one chance to evaluate them in Saturday practice before having to use them for a stint (at least two laps are mandated) in Sunday’s race.

The extra grip afforded will give drivers a boost in their quest for improving track position but their degradation will be key to a successful deployment in a racing situation.

“We're going back to an oval, which always produces some good racing,” said O’Ward. “This weekend, we have a different tire and a different extra tire, so I think that will keep everyone on their toes on strategy. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top.”

David Malukas, Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Honda

David Malukas, Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Honda

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

The alternate tire is understood to be close to a compound that was previously used here as the primary tire a few years ago, but teams will be anxious to ensure that their setups can accommodate the extra grip levels and not burn them out too quickly.

Dale Coyne Racing’s David Malukas, who finished second last year at the 1.25-mile oval formerly known as Gateway, believes the timing of using the tire can shake-up the race order.

“It's going to add more variety to the strategy and more opportunities for everybody within the field to get an opportunity to try to make the jump and be in the front by the end of it,” said Malukas.

“But I don't really know how it's going to be. I don't know if the drop-off is going to be massive, but you would expect it to be a little bit more than the primaries. It’s definitely kind of the big highlight going into the weekend.

“Maybe it'll add more of that possibility of not being a fuel-save race. I think, [it brings] just more chaos in the race.”

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