INDYCAR’s Bernard Unveils A Series Of Changes
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
Double-file restarts on ovals will become part of the IZOD IndyCar Series rules package beginning with the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, one of several competition-related revisions unveiled by the rebranded sanctioning body.
INDYCAR officially has replaced Indy Racing League as name tag of the sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy. That rebadging was among several changes announced Tuesday in Indianapolis during a “State of INDYCAR” presentation presided over by Randy Bernard, chief operating officer of INDYCAR.
Double-file restarts on ovals and the restart area moving closer to the start/finish line were among 2011 rules alterations announced by Brian Barnhart, IndyCar Series president of competition and racing operations. On-track changes incorporated in the rulebook followed input from team-owners and drivers, along with communication with fans.
Double-wide restarts will begin with the Centennial Indy 500 on May 29 – first oval race of the season. Briefly, the race director will instruct drivers to line up according to running order on the final caution lap, with the race leader taking the inside position of Row 1.
“We’ve been listening to the fans and made the change for the desire to have the restarts take place closer to the start/finish line,” Barnhart said. “Instead of accelerating as we come through Turns 3 and 4 on the ovals, we’ll be waiting till you approach the start/finish line, waiting till the field is all the way out on the front straightaway.
“On the road and street events, this won’t represent a significant change. This is basically how we currently restart. However, on the ovals…as we come to the one-to-go signal prior to the
restart, the command will be given for the field to line up in double-file formation. We’ll have the cars line up in double-file order with the leader on the inside of the front row and each car behind move into position accordingly.
“This has been an issue for a number of reasons. I think moving the restart point closer to the start/finish line and going to a double-file can be a positive move for our series. This is something the fans clearly want to see. I feel it’s important for us to listen to them.
“We’ve always talked about cautions breeding cautions and the risk for accidents on restarts could increase because of being double-file, but that’s something we’ll all have to deal with. It will add value to the entertainment of our show. Obviously, we think these changes will bring improvements to our sport and hopefully add value to our existing fans and attract new ones for all of us as well.”
The rule won’t be applied to road and street events because of their physical characteristics – narrow and quick corners that don’t allow for cars to run side-by-side – plus the build-up of tire tread “marbles” off-line as the race proceeds. However, INDYCAR officials will monitor the racing at each venue to potentially integrate it for future seasons.
“At venues such as Barber (Motorsports Park), you have a right-hander and left-hander
coming up on the start/finish line,” Barnhart said. “You don’t have time to get two-wide. It’s easier to do that coming for the initial start because guys are willing to run off-line because the track is clean. They won’t do that an hour into the race.”
Other competition changes include:
– Pit order for the field will be based upon the qualifying performance from the previous similar venue instead of being based upon entrant point standings. An example: The starting order from the St. Petersburg race will determine the pit box location for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.
“We were looking for ways to reward drivers for their efforts in qualifying,” Barnhart said. “By changing the pit selection process, it provides some variety so it’s not always the same teams and drivers at pit-out, which can be an advantageous pit location. I think it will be really good to mix things up a bit.”
– The pit-commit line is moving to avoid drivers being caught in “no-man’s land.”
“Pit lane is technically defined by where the speed limit begins and ends,” Barnhart said. “Everything else is racetrack. At a track like Homestead-(Miami Speedway), where the pit entrance is off the backstretch onto the deceleration lane in Turn 3, you could find yourself on that decel lane heading to pit lane and if it went caution you could not stop because you’re not within the pit boundaries – the speed limit zone.
“Now, if you make the decision to leave the racing surface and head to a pit box and a caution comes out while you are within that extended zone you will be able to stop.”
A marker, such as a cone, will identify the start of the zone.
– First session of a race weekend will be 75 minutes, with rookies and cars outside the top 10
on the track for the initial 45 minutes followed by all cars for the duration. As a complementary rule change, an extra set of tires will be made available to those participating in the 45-minute session. At the conclusion of the 75 minutes, the top 10 cars will have to turn in one set and the other cars will have to turn in at least one, if not two if they chose to get the second set (teams will be charged for the second set).
– One set of tires will be allowed for each segment of road and street course qualifying – a maximum of three sets for the first, second and Firestone Fast Six sessions. “It’s their choice whether they use reds or blacks in any of the three segments, but whatever set they bolt on and start the segment with that’s the only set they can use,” Barnhart said.
Additionally, on-track activities for 2011 will begin with an open test at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama from March 14-16, with a second open test scheduled for Kentucky Speedway on May 9-10 for IndyCar and Lights teams, respectively.
“These will be the only open tests of the year, but we’ll be adding some track time and practice sessions to several events during the season,” Barnhart said. “In addition to those open tests, we’ll have extended track time at New Hampshire and our season-ending event. This will take place on Thursday after moving into the facility on that morning. We’ll be adding a practice on Friday at Milwaukee and Thursday at Iowa, similar to what we did last year at Infineon and Mid-Ohio.”
The name change to INDYCAR represents a legal distancing from the Indy Racing League, Tony George’s vision for an oval-based, open-wheel series featuring the Indy 500 as its
centerpiece. The IRL was founded by George, then president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on March 11, 1994. The IRL officially took its name on July 8, 1994 with the mission of preserving the “traditions and excitement” of American open-wheel racing.
“As I was talking to fans and press through the course of last season, it was apparent that we needed to make a name change to reflect the history and heritage of our sport,” said Bernard, who joined the organization as CEO on March 1, 2010. “The time has come for our sport to move forward under a name that truly signifies a unified organization. The INDYCAR name has worldwide recognition and aligns with our positioning as the fastest, most versatile racing and drivers in the world.”
A new sanctioning body logo coinciding with the name change was unveiled during the “State of INDYCAR” presentation.
All series names sanctioned by INDYCAR will remain the same as listed:
INDYCAR – Sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy.
IZOD IndyCar Series – Top level of open-wheel racing in North America and the fastest, most versatile racing series in the world.
Firestone Indy Lights – Developmental series for drivers and teams looking to reach the IZOD
Mazda Road to Indy – Official ladder system that produces a defined road map for drivers looking to reach the pinnacle of open-wheel racing in North America through Cooper Tires presents US F2000 National Championship powered by Mazda, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and Firestone Indy Lights.
An engine change for 2012 – reducing displacement from 2.4 to 2.2-liters – also has been approved by the INDYCAR Engine Committee.
“One of our goals with the new engine was to challenge the automotive industry to balance power, efficiency and durability,” Barnhart said. “As we’ve progressed defining our engine rules with the INDYCAR Engine Committee, we felt it necessary to reduce displacement to a maximum of 2.2 liter to be in line with our smaller, lighter and more efficient direction.”
The INDYCAR Engine Committee is a working group made up of representatives from participating engine manufacturers, under the chairmanship of INDYCAR. This group meets several times a year to discuss manufacturer goals and emerging technologies while developing a roadmap for the future.
Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus have committed to building engines for the next generation IZOD IndyCar Series car in 2012 and are represented on the committee.
The 2012 platform allows manufacturers to produce engines with a maximum of six cylinders. The engines will be turbocharged producing between 550 and 700 horsepower to suit the diverse set of tracks on which the IndyCar Series competes. All engines will run on E85 with additional details on the fuel platform to be announced at a later date.
“Fans can look for a new vehicle with a sleek, sexier appearance,” said Tony Cotman, 2012
IndyCar project manager. “The sound of turbo is coming back. We expect to have two show cars for display at the Speedway during the Month of May. We can provide a peek into technology and the styling.
“Remember, the goal is to provide a platform for free-thinking, open-minded participants while exploring creativity, challenging teams and manufacturers. We want the boundaries to be pushed by all and excitement to a high level in our series.”
Additionally, fans as young at 9-years-old will be able to get behind-the-scenes at IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights events beginning this season.
INDYCAR is working with each of its racetrack partners to allow minors to hold garage passes during event weekends for the opportunity to see the stars and preparation of cars up-close. Venues will set their individual policy based upon insurance and state-specific regulations, with Texas Motor Speedway currently not participating in the program.
For the first time in its 102-year history, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will allow the purchase of garage passes for children 9 or older, or fourth grade and higher. Previously, minors were only allowed in the garage area on Community Day, a non-competition day.
“Our current fan base became fans of our sport by attending races with their parents, and we want to keep that tradition alive with the next generation,” Bernard said. “One of the greatest assets we have in enhancing the fan experience at the racetrack is access to our garage. We want our fans to get close to the action and excitement that defines the IZOD IndyCar Series.
“We are trying to make our events more family-friendly and allowing minor access to the garage is a great way to accomplish this. We thank the tracks for working with us to make this happen, and we look forward to creating unique programming in the garage that will further enhance the experience at each event.”
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment