SALINAS, Calif — We know the aged 2.238-mile Laguna Seca surface is going to create a ton of tire fall off over the course of the 95 lap race on Sunday. As a result, one under the radar thing to watch is how you plan to use your tires.
We have 3 practice sessions. 2 are already in the books. You also have 3 rounds of qualifying as well. With 6 sets of Firestone Primaries at your disposal and 4 Firestone alternate sets, how do you make use of them?
The fresher the tires, the better your lap time will be which in turn could set you up for a good starting spot. The thing is, the more sets you use, the lesser amount that you have left for the race.
There’s speculation mounting that you could see Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR Series season finale be a 4 stop race. If so, which sets do you save and how many of those stints are going to be on scuffs?
See the dilemma?
“Yeah, that’s definitely possible,” Power quipped. “There’s enough degradation for that. We’ll have to see in warmup when you actually do a full run what it is, but yes.”
That’s going to be why this year’s championship to be won between the 5 drivers that are eligible is going to absolutely be earned. This is absolutely a strategy type of race weekend and one that is going to separate the elite from the good.
Dixon is in a great spot.
“Strategy I think will be key tomorrow,” Dixon continued. “I think we’ve seen a lot of people go off track. Cautions could be coming maybe. Starts are always interesting here, and then also I think with tire deg, especially with the red tire, I think it’s definitely going to be a different race than what we saw last year.
“I think having started where we have a few times this year, you generally have more options. The leaders can kind of get locked in, and I know having been in that position before, you kind of — sometimes you’re a bit of a sitting duck.
“We’ll see how that plays. I think the tire thing is kind of a bit of an unknown, even though we’ve all run them and think we have a pretty good understanding. It may change a little bit.
“Yeah, I feel like the guys mid-pack and back kind of always have more options than the front rows.
“As Josef said, it’s never over until it’s over. We’ve seen that many a times this year, and we’ll do what we can, and if we can have a bit of luck go our way, it’ll be pretty helpful.”
Newgarden agrees. He notes that he’s been on the wrong end of that this year when he was starting up front. He’s seen it firsthand.
“I mean, I’ve had it happen more times than not this year where starting up front didn’t work out, at least not perfectly as you’d plan it. I would welcome it working from the back, for whatever reason. If something mysteriously happens and it’s like, wow, you actually wanted to start in the back? I would be very appreciative to have the other end of this argument.”
Even though Power is one the pole, he’s wary of his rivals.
“Yeah, in this series, a problem like that can win you the race tomorrow because you have more tires,” Power said. “But you cannot — it kind of sucks because Firestone or the series doesn’t give us enough tires. But yeah, that can totally be the winning strategy. What happened? Yeah, I screwed up in qualifying. That’s how you won the race? Yeah, that’s how this thing rolls sometimes.
“It’s a great spot because he didn’t use his tires up, and he’s not that far back. So yeah. Tough. Tough, man. Tough race. It’s far, far, far from won, and I’m really aware of that.”