After first practice for Sunday’s BitNile.com Grand Prix of Portland, IndyCar drivers are still uncertain of tire choice, owing to changing conditions and the track being so temperature dependent.
Kyle Kirkwood, who finished the session in second for Andretti Autosport, said, “The track does get a little faster as the run goes on. I was happy to get out early and get our lap in,” but later added that running two sets of reds on race day was less certain than it had been in the past.
“That’s kind of been the trend here the past couple of years,” said the driver who won at Portland five times in junior formulas, and has won twice this year, his second IndyCar season. “Granted, when we get our information from Firestone, it says that it’s likely to wear faster for this weekend.
“It’s still a little bit of an uncertainty, I would say. You never really know until after warmup, but I would say based on [the] practice one field, the fact that we were able to run a certain lap time and then go back out and still be quicker than the primary tires indicates kind of towards a red race, but like I said, we won’t know until warmup.”
Felix Rosenqvist of Arrow McLaren, who finished fifth in Friday’s opening practice, said, “Historically it’s kind of been a red race so I thought the gap, laptime-wise [between the two compounds], was pretty big. It was like a second for most drivers. That’s what I’m predicting.”
However, he pointed out, “This place doesn’t have a ton of track evolution. Just gets a little bit faster, you know? It’s not like, boom, you get a bunch of front grip or rear grip. It’s pretty equal.”
Rosenqvist said that, instead, Portland International Raceway gets faster or slower according to conditions.
“It’s very temperature-sensitive. If the sun comes out, you lose a lot of lap time and grip. If it gets cool, you can find a second here pretty quickly, if there’s just some cloud cover, so it’s more about that, to be honest. If the track condition goes more hot and you go out late, maybe you can get caught out, but I think honestly it probably won’t get much quicker than it is right now.”
In contrast, he felt there’s little complexity to setting up the car.
“No matter what you do, the strengths will benefit you on one end and then you will lose time on the other end. I feel like to do a good lap time isn’t really hard – or it’s always hard, but any car can kind of be quick. It just depends where you want to be quick.
“You can be quick in Turn 10, 11 and [Turns] 4 and 5, but then you’ll be slow in Turn 2 and Turn 7 and Turn 12 – or the opposite. I’ve kind of had all different kinds of cars here. It seems like you can always kind of make the lap time happen if you have a good balance.”