LEEDS, Ala. — A.J. Allmendinger’s much-anticipated debut to the IZOD IndyCar Series saw the former Champ Car Series driver finish eighth in practice, but Team Penske President Tim Cindric was more concerned that his weekend performance may have been hampered by a new tire limitation rule that was put in place before Friday’s practice session.
According to Cindric, each rookie driver or those outside of the top 10 had to run at least five laps on a second set of Firestone Tires in practice or they would have to give that set of tires back. When rookie driver Tristan Vautier brought out the red flag when his Dallara/Honda went off the race course in turn two, however, the session was stopped and Allmendinger had just four laps on his set of tires.
Because this is his first race and he is pitting at the entrance of the pit lane, timing and scoring showed him completing just four laps while the cars from the start/finish to the exit of pit lane were all clocked as having five laps.
Because of that, Allmendinger’s Team Penske car had to turn in its second set of tires which meant he had to sit out much of the second session of practice.
He ran just five laps in the second session of practice but was eighth quick out of the 26 drivers that participated in that session with a time of 1:08.9119 around the 17-turn, 2.38-mile road course for a lap speed of 120.153 miles per hour in a Dallara/Chevrolet.
Cindric, however, questioned the necessity for the tire rule in the first place and believes it kept Allmendinger from having more time on the race track as he prepares for his first IZOD IndyCar Series race.
The intent of the rule is to encourage participation on the race track and have as many cars as possible run in each session. Because each practice session was one full hour in length, IndyCar believes it’s up to the teams to manage the laps on each set of tires. And for those teams that fall short of the five-lap requirement, the penalty is the loss of that set of tires.
Despite sitting on pit lane for all but five laps of practice in the second session, Allmendinger said he learned a lot from the
“When we got here at the test, for me, I was trying to learn the race track, and it was so cold, there was just a ton of grip out there,” Allmendinger said. “I felt like the first session was real slick compared from the test with the Grand-Am cars here, and the Continental cars here, then obviously with just the rain, and no rubber really being down on the race track. For me, it is just a process. It’s just trying to learn how these weekends go and trying to keep up with the race track as it changes.