It was a somber and grim morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday, with the news that Bryan Clauson passed away from his injuries in Saturday night’s crash at the Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas. The 27-year old driver had immense talent, and not a bad bone in his body. The three Indianapolis 500 starts that Clauson had truly showcased his talent, abilities, and passion for racing. He could drive anything with wheels, on any kind of track. The Clauson family asks that all contributions be sent to the USAC Benevolent Fund website, in lieu of flowers.
Firestone had already scheduled a tire test for today at the Speedway, and the six drivers that were turning laps around the famous 2.5-mile oval found comfort in the cockpit. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indy 500 winner and 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, elaborated on the devastating news. “It’s something you can never get used to and you never become accustomed to it. The good thing is I’m behind the wheel of a race car today, which is definitely the best place to be at a time like this.”
Hunter-Reay and Ed Carpenter were the two primary tire testers on Monday, with Firestone trying different compounds and constructions as they prepare the tire for next year’s Indianapolis 500. The other four drivers that participated today were Tony Kanaan, Juan Montoya, Graham Rahal, and defending Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi.
Dale Harrigle, Chief Engineer and Manager of Race Tire Development for Bridgestone Americas, said that today’s testing session was smaller in scale than some previous years because of how well the 2016 tire performed. In all, Firestone supplies nearly 5,000 tires for Indy 500 practice, qualifying, and the race. Having the past four Indy 500 winners (Rossi, Montoya, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan) and a two-time Indy 500 Pole sitter like Carpenter to work with, Firestone knew they were going to get excellent feedback.
Both Carpenter and Hunter-Reay spent the majority of the morning alternating short runs on a control set of Firehawk tires, and some experimental sets that varied in tread compound and/or construction on at least one tire position. The drivers were then able to run full-stints in the afternoon session, with a lot of laps being turned before the conclusion of the test.
In addition to the six drivers that logged laps at IMS today, most of the teams participated in last Thursday’s test at Pocono Raceway. Up next is a test at Watkins Glen International on Thursday, where essentially everyone will participate. Below are some photos from today’s test, and a video interview with Carpenter, courtesy of RACER.