August 07, 2019

'Driving in an oven.' IndyCar drivers battle Texas heat during tire test at TMS

IndyCar driver Graham Rahal felt the Texas heat on Wednesday.

“Seriously, it’s so hot out here. I feel like I’m driving around in an oven today,” said Rahal, who took part in a Firestone tire test at Texas Motor Speedway.

“And they want me to do about 700 miles at Texas today, so I’ll be pretty tired tonight.”

Rahal and fellow IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden were hand-selected by Firestone to take part in the tire test. Each driver planned to run about 400 laps, which is significantly more than a race (248 laps).

This is a standard test aimed at finding the best tire for next year’s 2020 IndyCar race at TMS. It’s usually considered an “honor” for drivers to take part in tests such as these, although with temperatures pushing triple digits it might’ve felt more like a punishment.

“My Lord, I didn’t think it could get any hotter in Texas than when we were here racing,” said Rahal, referring to the DXC Technology 600 run at TMS in June.

“But it’s good to be back, just working with Firestone today. The goal is to find a more suitable tire for the 2020 race. More suitable might mean a little more degradation, so the cars slide around some more. It may not. Josef and I are going to pound around trying to find a good combination that they’re comfortable with.”

Rahal, who won at TMS in 2016, served as a Honda driver for the test. Newgarden, who won in June, served as the Chevrolet driver.

Newgarden enjoyed returning to the site of one of his four victories this season.

“It’s good to be back on track here,” Newgarden said. “It was a great win. To be able to finally win around this place was a huge achievement. Such a difficult track to get right, but that’s what makes it so rewarding. It’s an exciting track to win at, you feel really special when you roll into Victory Lane here with your team.”

As far as the blistering heat, Newgarden said: “It’s hot, but typical Texas. We’re not going to complain because we know the drill when we come down here. It’s not that different from the race weekend. It was hot when we were here a little bit ago. It’s sort of a normal deal coming to Texas Motor Speedway.”

Other items the drivers touched on --

Newgarden on TMS’ Victory Lane celebration: “The cowboy hats, the six-shooters, everything about it, it’s such a cool event. It’s very Texas, in a good way I would say. It felt good to come back to see the place.”

Newgarden on being in position to win his second IndyCar championship in three years:“You’ve got to take it one race at a time. It’s a championship where every race matters. The last races, they look more important because you’re getting down to the wire, more emphasis on it, but it’s one race at a time.”

Rahal on snapping his winless drought that dates back to 2017: “We need to break the door down. It’s been a long time for me and for our team. We need to just bust that door down. We’ve had a lot of bad luck in the last two years. I don’t care what anybody tells you, racing is a lot of luck too. We’ve had a lot of bad luck. Until for whatever reason that goes away, we’re going to keep fighting an uphill battle a little bit.”

Rahal on his father-in-law, legendary NHRA driver John Force, winning his 150th career Funny Car race: “It’s good. I can tell you it’s been bothering him. It’s been a huge monkey on his back. When you go to the track every single weekend and the question is, ‘When are you going to win? When are you going to win? When are you going to get 150?’ It’s just like, it’s over, that’s behind him.

“It’s a mark and a milestone that will never be beaten for sure. It’s obviously a great thing. And he’s happy. That’s the biggest key for me.”

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