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IndyCar Raids NASCAR Rule Book

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, March 14 2011

Green will mean going double file this year in the IndyCar Series. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Side-by-side restarts at all venues – and likely implementation of a NASCAR-inspired “Lucky Dog/free pass” – are the IZOD IndyCar Series’ latest attempts at ratcheting-up the quality of racing in 2011.

Brian Barnhart, INDYCAR’s president of competition and racing operations, announced Friday that side-by-side restarts will be in effect at all tracks starting with the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street race on March 27. Series officials opted to implement side-by-side restarts on road and street circuits following input from drivers and teams, complementing the rule on ovals announced by Barnhart on Jan. 11.

“After seeking input following our initial restart announcement, we felt it was best to be consistent with the rule and use it at every track,” Barnhart said. “Whether on short ovals, superspeedways, temporary circuits or road courses, side-by-side restarts will certainly be entertaining and further intensify our on-track action.

“We are still contemplating adding a ‘free pass’ element, often referred to as ‘Lucky Dog’ by TV commentators, to the restart procedure but we want to hear from the fans.” Fans can offer an opinion on the “free pass” idea by visiting www.indycar.com.

Meanwhile, here are the procedures immediately following a yellow caution period and leading up to resumption of green flag racing at each INDYCAR event:

Once a caution is displayed, cars will be grouped single-file according to their running order behind

IndyCar focuses on restarts and hands out free passes.

the safety car. Any car that has passed the pit-commit line at the time the caution is called may proceed without penalty to pit lane for service, blend at pit-out and rejoin the field.

When IndyCar Series officials declare the pits open, lead-lap cars will be eligible to pit (displayed by a plus sign at pit-in).  All remaining cars will pit on the next lap (displayed by a minus sign at pit-in). Cars will enter and leave pit road at an equal, controlled speed and be placed behind the lead-lap cars in order of when they cross the blend line.

Once cars are grouped behind the safety car and the race leader is established, all cars between the safety car and the race leader will be waved around to take their positions at the rear of the field. This will allow lapped cars that did not pit to get one lap back and the race leader to pace the field to the green flag on the restart.

The race leader will have the option to restart on the left or right, with the second-place car lining up on the opposite side. This only will apply to the cars restarting on the front row. The remaining cars will line up side-by-side for the restart as the grid was set for the start of the race (i.e. driver’s right or driver’s left).

In an effort to shorten the length of caution periods and optimize green flag racing time, the full restart procedure will not be used when a yellow condition is deemed by officials to be short (as for debris), a second yellow that immediately follows a yellow and during road/street course races when there are none or few lapped cars.

When the full restart procedure is not used, the pits are open to all cars; all cars will blend to the back of the field and all cars will line up in side-by-side order without regard to lap.

These latest rules changes follow the decision announced last week to cap starting fields at a maximum of 26 cars for all races with the exception of the 100th edition of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 and the inaugural IZOD INDYCAR World Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16.

During the 15 race weekends affected – including the first of two 275-kilometer events at Texas Motor

Graham Rahal says IndyCar is not NASCAR. (RacinToday.com file photo by Mark Henderson/Really Really Big Industries Inc.)

Speedway on June 11 – 24 starting spots will be filled through qualifications based upon time, with two provisional positions available if needed. The starting field for the second Firestone Twin 275 at TMS will be determined by a blind draw conducted during a one-hour “intermission” session. The two provisional spots will be available to drivers not making the field after the completion of qualifying.

Second-generation driver Graham Rahal, who is preparing to return to the series fulltime with Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing, said the 26-car limit makes open-wheel sense.

“We’re not NASCAR. We don’t try to be NASCAR,” said Rahal, whose victory at St. Pete in 2008 for Newman/Haas Racing made him the youngest race-winner and pole-sitter in IndyCar Series history. “We’re not going to have 43 cars running around St. Petersburg. That’s just not going to happen. I think 26 cars is great.

“I’m not one for provisionals. I think you should always earn the right to be in the race. That’s fine. Double-wide restarts, I’m glad they’re starting at St. Pete and not the Indy 500 because that’s not what we needed.”

Rahal said that while he had “mixed emotions” about the rumored “Lucky Dog” rule being borrowed from NASCAR, it looms as a positive addition. “Really it gives you a great opportunity that if something goes wrong you can get your lap back fairly easily, get right back in the race and have a good shot at it. I think that’s pretty exciting,” said Rahal, who will debut the No. 38 Service Central Dallara/Honda at St. Pete.  “I think the moves that they’re making are the right moves. I think that we’re headed in the right direction.

“Two-wide restarts, most of the places we run anyway, we end up being two-wide the minute we cross the start/finish line. I don’t think that’s going to make that big of a change. It’s only how they handle lapped traffic. You don’t want a back-marker up there taking out the leaders. That won’t go over very well.

“If we can have 26 cars at every event, I think that’s showing a huge turn in momentum for our series. I think we’re already seeing that. We’re seeing a lot of sponsors get involved in the sport in a much bigger way. I think they’re doing the right things and I stand behind them. I always have. Whatever it takes to make the show a little more exciting, I’m perfectly fine with that.”

Larry Foyt, team director for A.J. Foyt Racing, scheduled two days of testing at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., as Round 1 of preparation for the 18-race IndyCar Series season. Round 2 will be the Open Test at the same venue today and Tuesday, when the team can fine-

Larry Foyt schedules test.

tune setups on Vitor Meira’s No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda.

“We decided that the permanent road courses and that type of track was our weakness or Achilles’ heel last season,” Foyt said, “so we really felt that getting a good baseline setup on that type of track would help us throughout the season.  At the Open Test with everybody there, we’ll be able to gauge where we are and then fine-tune from there.

“It’s really tough to re-create a street course because they’re all different _ different bumps at different places. The last few years we’ve tried to do it and it’s been a help but we felt like we had a pretty good setup for those kinds of tracks, so going to the permanent road course was the most important thing for us.”

IZOD IndyCar Series teams will test on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn BMP circuit today and Tuesday, while Firestone Indy Lights teams will be on-track Wednesday. Star Mazda Championship cars will have track time each day. Twenty-four IndyCar driver/car combinations are expected to participate. Another Open Test will be conducted May 9-10 at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway before the first oval race of the season _ the Indy 500.

First practice for the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is 10 days after the Open Test. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will take place two weeks after the St. Pete street course race.

“For the road courses you have to find a baseline, learn what the car likes combined with myself and the team,” Meira said. “Everyone will be at the Open Test, so we will have a lot of rubber on the track and the track conditions will be race-like with a lot of cars running. Hopefully we will come up with a good baseline package for the road courses that will work for us not only at Barber but throughout the year.”

Oriol Servia and James Hinchcliffe will continue their offseason work with eight-time open-wheel champions Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) at Barber Motorsports Park.

Servia, who has logged a win and seven podium finishes for NHR, and Hinchcliffe, runnerup in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights championship, completed two days of running in December on the 1.65-mile Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway course. NHR returned to the track for another two-day test with Hinchcliffe in January.  The Open Test at BMP will be the first time for both drivers to run the course in an IZOD IndyCar.

“I will have my first real taste for the Barber course at the test,” said Servia, who attended the 2010 Open Test at BMP as a spectator.  “I’m really happy that spring training is taking place there so I will have chance to learn before we come back for the race.  The track looks challenging and busy.  Every time I have sat in a Newman/Haas car has produced some of my best racing moments and I am sure this time will be no different.”

A native of Catalonia, Spain, Servia has made 15 starts for NHR, including his first Indy-car win (Montreal 2005) and pole (Surfers Paradise, Australia 2005) as well as a total of seven top-three, 11 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes.  Servia replaced NHR driver Bruno Junqueira after he suffered a season-ending injury during the Indy 500 on May 29, 2005. Servia went on to finish second to teammate Sebastien Bourdais in the standings after 11 events.  Servia returned to NHR in 2009 for four races, with a season-best finish of fourth at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

Hinchcliffe has Firestone Indy Lights experience at BMP, where he qualified on-pole in 2010. He scored victories on the streets of Long Beach and Edmonton and the Chicagoland Speedway oval last year.

“Barber is a terrific track,” said Hinchcliffe, a 23-year-old native of Toronto, who has posted eight podium finishes in 13 races.  “It’s very fast and flowing and that creates a lot of challenges for the driver and the engineers.  I think the IndyCar will be fantastic to drive there because the long, fast corners will really let me stretch the car’s legs and see what it can do.  I have to thank the team massively for the chance to test at Barber because this could be a very valuable few days for the race weekend later in the year.  It will be cool to share the track with some of the guys I’ve watched so closely for so many years.”

The 2011 season will be NHR’s 29th, as the organization attempts to add to its eight championships, 107 race wins and 109 pole positions to-date.

The recently conserved No. 82 Lotus-Ford 38/1, owned by The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich., was on display Sunday at the 2011 Amelia Island (Fla.) Concours d’Elegance.

The No. 82 Lotus-Ford was driven to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500 by Formula One star Jimmy Clark. The Scotman’s victory was the first by a rear-engine car at Indianapolis Motor

Jim Clark pits the No. 82 Lotus at Indy in 1965, as the Wood Brothers go to work. (Photo courtesy of the Wood Brother Racing team)

Speedway, marking the end of the front-engine Roadster era. It also was the first Indy 500 victory for a Ford-powered car. Clark’s win changed the course of Indy-car racing via the application of rear-engine, European Formula 1 technology, a lightweight, aircraft-inspired Lotus chassis, four-wheel independent suspension and a rear-mounted DOHC Ford V-8 engine. Clark led an astounding 190 of 200 laps, with A.J. Foyt Jr. leading the other 10.

After the 1965 victory ceremonies, the car went on a promotional tour around the country, left just as it was when it was pushed out of Indy’s Victory Lane. Acquired by The Henry Ford in 1977, the car’s engine never ran again until 2010.

The car was displayed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England in 2009. It was during that event that The Henry Ford, working with Classic Team Lotus and Clive Chapman, son of Lotus founder Colin Chapman, decided to completely restore the car to running condition. During that process, the engine was removed and the oil drained for the first time since 1965. The engine was shipped to Indianapolis, where it was conserved by Walt Goodwin of Race Car Restorations, Inc.

The Lotus-Ford was driven for the first time since 1965 at the 2010 Goodwood Festival by Clark’s contemporary and friend, three-time Formula 1 champion Sir Jackie Stewart. Later in the year it returned for the first time to IMS, where it was driven on the historic track by current Scottish racing star Dario Franchitti, the three-time/reigning IndyCar Series champion and two-time Indy 500 winner.

The No. 82 Lotus-Ford will be a key component in “Racing in America,” new, permanent exhibition planned for the Henry Ford Museum. “Racing in America” will cover the history and innovation of American auto racing in a unique experience powered by interactive displays and technologies.

Corporate teammates Jamie McMurray and Scott Dixon will swap seats during a unique intramural “test” involving Barber Motorsports Park and Talladega Superspeedway on Wednesday.

McMurray, the 2010 Daytona 500 champion for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, will drive Dixon’s No. 9

Scott Dixon will turn his car over to Jamie McMurray. (Photo courtesy of the IndyCar Series)

Target Dallara/Honda at Barber Motorsports Park. Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 champion for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, will drive McMurray’s No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Impala at Talladega Superspeedway. The swap is scheduled for a two-hour time block, complete with media shuttle between the two facilities.

The 2011 Indianapolis 500 ticket features Dario Franchitti celebrating in Victory Lane last May after earning his second win in the world’s most prestigious auto race. Franchitti will attempt to become just the 10th driver to win the race at least three times on Sunday, May 29.

Other design elements include the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 logo, the IMS Centennial Era logo and other touches that draw from the extensive history of Speedway tickets. Brad Walters, IMS creative services designer, based this design on the 1937 event ticket.

Opening Day for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Saturday, May 14, and tickets are on sale for “The Most Important Race in History.” Race Day tickets start at just $30. Fans can buy tickets online at www.imstix.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or by visiting the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.

Fans looking to take advantage of INDYCAR’s offer of complimentary tickets to its season-finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will have two ways of doing so.

INDYCAR recently announced that fans purchasing a ticket to any IZOD IndyCar Series race during the 2011 season are eligible to receive a complimentary ticket to the championship race. Beginning March 21, fans can redeem this offer by visiting www.indycarworldchampionships.com or stopping by the INDYCAR Fan Zone or other designated locations at-track.

Fans will have seven days following completion of each race attended to register for complementary tickets. The offer is limited to the first 80,000 tickets.

INDYCAR, sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights, will culminate its 2011 season with the crowning of its champions on the 1.5-mile LVMS oval on Oct. 16.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, March 14 2011
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Keith says:

    I hope the rule makers from INDY car do not lose their minds and bring in the lucky dog rule nothing wrong with the double file restart but giving a driver something for nothing is just wrong.

  • Steve says:

    Oh so double file restarts are Nascar’s idea now? Are you kidding?! Short tracks have been doing that forever and Nascar finally got around to implementing it in their series. Nascar is the most reactive sport there is, so please don’t post a heading of an article giving Nascar a pat on the back for something that was never there to begin with. Keep drinking the Kool-Aid though.