Saturday, May 26, 2018
Sports

Weather creates challenges for Grand Prix tactics

ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday's rain delayed qualifying for today's IndyCar race and meant data from practices on a dry track likely will be more useful today, when sunny weather is forecast.

"We've had three sessions (on a dry track)," Team Penske owner Roger Penske said before qualifying. "We ran our tires (Saturday) morning. We ran our tires more than 30 laps. We understand the balance, so I think we're ready to go for the race."

Where the rain was most likely to be a factor was in setting the field in qualifying, which, in turn, will affect tactics during the race.

Last year, the event was extended from 100 to 110 laps, making it a three pit-stop race for fuel. Teams running toward the back of the field can use this to their advantage. They can pit early to get out of traffic — and perhaps catch a caution flag that lets them pit under caution and gain spots — or try to save fuel and pit a lap or two later, perhaps enabling them to make a shorter fuel stop toward the end.

Assuming the race is dry, teams will run two types of tires, a regular compound and a softer compound. The softer tires are faster at the start but wear down quicker. Those have red sidewalls and are nicknamed "reds" whereas the regular tires are called "blacks."

Teams must run at least one set of each under green-flag conditions during the race. That rule does not apply if it rains or the track is still wet enough from previous rain. In that instance, teams use grooved rain tires.

Chip Ganassi Racing's Tony Kanaan said his team remains undecided on using two sets of reds and one set of black or vice versa: "We'll find out (today)."

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