DETROIT – With rain that seemingly makes an annual appearance at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear – and there are chances of it affecting the race weekend once again – Firestone Racing couldn’t have selected a better time to debut its latest wet-weather tire for Verizon IndyCar Series competition.
The first new rain tire design in three years for INDYCAR’s exclusive supplier since 2000 has an updated tread pattern to better evacuate water more efficiently from underneath the tires. Less water between the tires and the track surface equals greater traction and grip.
Cara Adams, chief engineer of Bridgestone Americas Motorsports that develops and produces the Firestone Racing brand, said the new rain tires feature an asymmetric and directional tread pattern “to achieve ultimate water evacuation, braking, acceleration and cornering performance” for the competitors in wet conditions.
“There isn’t a specific thing that caused (development) for this new tire,” Adams said Friday when the tire was introduced at the Raceway at Belle Isle. “We are ever evolving our technology at Bridgestone Motorsports and we need to be. With our ability to be at the track, we are always communicating with the drivers and engineers and getting their feedback. We take what they tell us and take it back so we can improve our tires.”
Testing for the rain tire took place at facilities in Texas and Italy, but there’s nothing like actual competition in the Verizon IndyCar Series to provide the ultimate feedback.
“We’ve done hours and hours of indoor testing of this tire, but this will be the introduction into live Indy car conditions. We’ll see if it’ll be needed this weekend,” Adams said.
The forecast for Sunday’s second race of the doubleheader weekend lists a 30 percent chance of rain. Adams is confident in the durability of the rain tires.
“If it’s fully wet, the teams can run the same tires for the entire race,” she said. “As the track dries, the tires will overheat and obviously fall off. But if there’s a significant amount of rain, then they could, if they wanted, run the whole race on the rain tires.”
“We’ve seen teams do double and triple stints of the same rain tires before,” she added.
Newgarden takes on friend, NFL player in table tennis
Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden caught up with a high school chum for a game of ping pong on Wednesday night. The friend just happened to be NFL wide receiver Golden Tate of the Detroit Lions.
Newgarden and Tate attended Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, Tennessee, before Newgarden ventured on to a successful racing career and Tate matriculated to play football at the University of Notre Dame and then the NFL.
The duo reunited at the Drive Table Tennis Social Club in Detroit on Wednesday night to challenge each other in a friendly game with a charitable donation on the line. Newgarden won the best-of-three match, earning a $2,500 donation to the Serious Fun Children’s Network from Tate.
“It was great to catch up with Golden here in Detroit,” said Newgarden said, who encountered weather delays on his way to Detroit and was several hours late to the event.
“I don’t think we’ve seen each other since high school. When we were growing up, he was always the best athlete in school and it’s been incredible to watch his career and see him achieve so much success.
“He put up a great fight in the match. I think I froze him a bit with my travel being delayed. All in all, it was a ton of fun to go head-to-head, especially for a couple of great causes.”
Leist, Binder visit Children’s Hospital of Michigan
Before they took to the Belle Isle track for the first time in their Verizon IndyCar Series careers, rookie drivers Matheus Leist and Rene Binder visited several dozen Children’s Hospital of Michigan patients on Thursday during a Racing For Kids stop at the hospital’s Specialty Center.
During the 90-minute visit, Leist and Binder signed hero cards, gave away Racing For Kids caps, posed for photos and assisted youngsters as they got into an Indy car show car provided by the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.
Pat Wright, CEO of Racing For Kids, present portable pediatric heart monitors to the hospital cardiology staff. The high-tech devices enable young high-risk heart surgery patients to go home early while being constantly monitored.
Thursday’s program had the feel of a homecoming celebration since the Racing For Kids founded at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in 1989.