Kirkwood: Stronger Tires Making Passing Tough on Street Courses in 2024

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Kirkwood: “More durable” tires hindering passing on street circuits in 2024

In the opening rounds of the season, including a recent non-points event, there has been a conspicuous absence of on-track passes for the lead. The trend began at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg where Josef Newgarden of Team Penske dominated, leading 92 of 100 laps to secure victory without a single on-track pass for the lead, as changes in position occurred solely during pit sequences.

The most recent event, a non-points exhibition at The Thermal Club, continued the trend of follow-the-leader racing. Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing led every lap in the 20-lap final, ultimately winning by a significant margin over Scott McLaughlin. Palou’s dominance extended to his respective heat, where he led all 10 laps unchallenged, mirroring the trend observed in the earlier race.

Kyle Kirkwood, the defending race winner of the upcoming Grand Prix of Long Beach, attributed the lack of on-track action to the reduced tire wear experienced this season. He noted that the new tire compound, designed to accommodate the increased weight of the car due to the forthcoming hybrid engine, has resulted in tires that are exceptionally durable, making it challenging for drivers to execute passes.

Kyle Kirkwood
Kyle Kirkwood (Credits: Autosport)

The decision to delay the introduction of the hybrid engine until after the Indianapolis 500 meant that the new tires, designed to withstand the hybrid’s demands, were already in use. Consequently, the current tires exhibit high durability, diminishing the role of tire wear in creating passing opportunities.

Kirkwood emphasized that in the current IndyCar landscape, passing relies heavily on strategic maneuvers rather than outright speed. He suggested that without significant tire degradation, drivers must employ alternative strategies to gain positions on track, a dynamic that has been notably absent in the early races of the season.

While Kirkwood acknowledged the potential for variations in race dynamics depending on the circuit and individual driver performance, he anticipated that the trend of limited passing opportunities could persist in races where durable tires remain a factor. Consequently, he speculated that outright pace may become the determining factor in race outcomes until the introduction of the hybrid engine alters the competitive landscape later in the season.


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