Firestone tires

NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers are gearing up for one of the most picturesque, eagerly challenged racetracks in the country: Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Teams and drivers and the crowd are in for a beautiful day of on-track action as weather looks nearly perfect for the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR. By the time the green flag drops at 12:55 p.m. (ET), the temperature is expected to be 63 degrees. It is set to be a partly cloudy day with a 1 percent chance of rain and 60 percent humidity.

Firestone is supplying more than 1,600 tires for the today’s race on the 14-turn, 4.048-mile road course. The tires feature the same technology that Firestone Racing used at this race weekend last year and are suited to handle the high speeds and 211 feet of elevation change per lap. Each entry has received seven sets of primary (black) tires, four sets of alternate (red) tires and five sets of rain (gray) tires.

You can catch the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR at 12:30 p.m. (ET), live on NBC and Peacock Premium. INDYCAR Radio Network live coverage starts at noon. You can listen to radio broadcasts live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 160, and the INDYCAR Mobile App powered by NTT DATA.

Here’s what you need to know to get ready for today’s action.

A Champion’s Racetrack

Race drivers love this 14-turn, 4.048-mile permanent road course because its fast straightaways, flowing corners and elevation changes challenge the world’s best drivers. It’s also a track that requires perfect laps. The slightest mistake will penalize a driver due to the length of the lap; even a simple missed corner entry or wide corner exit.

That’s why only the best tend to succeed at Road America. In 32 INDYCAR SERIES races at Road America, 26 times the winner was a series champion or a future champion. Just look at some of the winners from this circuit:

Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Michael Andretti, Jacques Villeneuve, Paul Tracy, Scott Dixon, Danny Sullivan, Alex Zanardi, Dario Franchitti, Cristiano da Matta, Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Alex Palou.

Eight times the winner of Road America has gone on to win the Astor Challenge Cup in the same season: Mario Andretti in 1984, Michael Andretti in 1991, Villeneuve in 1995, Zanardi in 1997, da Matta in 2002, Bourdais in 2007, Dixon in 2020 and Palou just last year. Note that the last two series champions conquered Road America on their way to the championship.

Since the NTT INDYCAR SERIES returned to Road America after a brief hiatus in 2016, the series has made seven starts at the track, and all but two have been won by series champions: 2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Alexander Rossi in 2019 and Felix Rosenqvist in Race 2 of 2020’s doubleheader.

There are five former series champions in the field this weekend in Newgarden, Dixon, Power, Palou and Simon Pagenaud. You should expect all these drivers to contend for the win today.

Start Up Front for Success

Qualifying is very important at Road America, and while it doesn’t always result in a win, it almost always results in success.

Eight drivers have won at Road America from the pole in 10 races: Mario Andretti (1983, 1984, 1987), Danny Sullivan (1989), Paul Tracy (1993), Jacques Villeneuve (1995), Bruno Junqueira (2003), Sebastien Bourdais (2007), Will Power (2016) and Josef Newgarden (2018).

While a pole sitter hasn’t won at Road America since 2018, the first-place starter has still enjoyed success recently, specifically in 2021’s race weekend.

NTT P1 Award winner Newgarden led a race-high 32 laps before gearbox issues plagued his car on a restart with two laps to go and forced him to finish 21st. That allowed for Alex Palou, who started fifth, to score his second win of the season.

In the last 10 INDYCAR SERIES races at Road America, only once has the winner started outside the top 10: Alex Tagliani started 13th in his 2004 win. And only two more times in that span has the winner started outside the top five: Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist in 2020.

So, if you’re looking for a group of drivers to put in your INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge Driven by Firestone team, you’d be risky to look outside the top five starters of Alexander Rossi, Newgarden, Palou, Marcus Ericsson and Colton Herta.

Who Can Best Save Their Stuff?

The race within the race today at Road America will be with the Firestone Firehawk tires.

When do drivers opt for the primary “black” tires that have more durability over a long run, and when will they take on the alternate “red” tires that are grippier and provide more speed over the short run?

This question is at the forefront of everyone’s minds this weekend, as that strategy was the focal point of last weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. Will Power held on over the final stint with worn Firestone alternate (red) tires while Alexander Rossi charged hard on fresher primary (black) tires.

Tire degradation has been the phrase of the weekend, as both primary and alternate tires are experiencing fall-off that challenges the world’s best drivers. The longer drivers run on tires, the more worn they become and the harder it is to drive.

It means these drivers must work overtime today as they fight grip levels all day long, but it’s great news for race fans.

Herta Drops to 11th Starting Spot

Colton Herta will start 11th in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda today after incurring a six-grid spot penalty for an engine change (unrepairable) after the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. INDYCAR officials made the decision late Saturday afternoon.

Every driver who qualified between sixth and 11th Saturday will move up one spot on the grid today.