2. All Firehawk tires are designed and developed in Akron.
Firestone has a team of 40 expert tire builders based in Akron, who make each tire by hand. Bridgestone recently broke ground on a new, state-of-the-art facility that will be the future home of Firestone race tire manufacturing. The Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center (ATPC) will be the first new tire manufacturing plant built in Akron since World War II.
3. Track temperature matters.
Not only do temperatures vary by track—from triple-digit heat in Texas to 50-degree weather in Indianapolis—but they vary by time and turn. Temperatures can drop 30 degrees between Turns 2 and 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which affects how race tires grip the track surface and the speed at which the cars can travel.
"And conditions change throughout the day," Adams said. "What you test at 8 a.m. is not going to be the same thing as 2 p.m. when the temperature is out."
4. Drivers give a lot of feedback.
Firestone engineers bring about 5,000 tires to Indianapolis and the 2021 Indy 500 tires feature the same compound and construction as the 2019 Indy 500 tires, which won the Louis Schwitzer Award for engineering excellence in 2019.
The Firestone team is constantly asking drivers for feedback during the season to make sure they get the right tires for each race.
"We have a lot of different constructions," Adams said. "We might want to improve handling or we might want to improve one specific part in the corner because maybe during the race we had some driver say, 'Hey, you know what, as I go off the turn, my car is starting to understeer a little bit. We don't know if it's thermal but we just don't like the feeling.'
"So, we'll go back and develop a bunch of constructions, and we'll test them virtually. Then we bring them here (to the track) and we have control tires that we run so we can baseline everything."
Ultimately, there needs to be a consensus among the drivers. For example, Castroneves might love a certain tire because it's really fast, but it won't be used during the race because another driver nixed it.
"It's always a balance," Adams said. "If we're going to test with a Honda, we need to make sure we test with a Chevy. We've tested things at the Speedway where we thought, 'This is going to be great. This is awesome.' We did a test a while ago where we increased the stagger and two drivers liked it and the other driver said, 'What are you trying to do to us?'"
It's a tricky balance, but when it comes to tires, hate is stronger than love, Adams said.
"If somebody really, really, really doesn't like how a tire handles on their car, we weigh that kind of heavily," she said. "So if you were to drive and everyone says, 'Yep, this tire is pretty good,' and Helio says, 'Ah, no, I really, really don't want you to put this on the car,' that's going to be a really heavy rating. We always look at stuff like that."