Drivers Rebuked; Double-File Restarts Stand

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 27 2011

INDYCAR 'top cop" Brian Barnhart told drivers double-file restarts in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 are a go on Friday. (Photos courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Indianapolis – Any notion that the IZOD IndyCar Series’ controversial double-file restart rule would be parked for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 was quashed Friday morning, when INDYCAR’s “top cop” spelled-out the procedure in detail.

Brian Barnhart, INDYCAR’s president of competition and racing operations, addressed the double-file issue during a driver’s meeting during which he also touched on the traditional flying start, pit stops, spotters, marbles on the track and blocking and defending.

“Don’t get stupid today,” Barnhart said before releasing the 33 drivers for the final one-hour Carburetion Day practice session around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “It’s your butt on the line, make sure you make the right decisions.”

That advice will carry even more weight on Sunday during this historic edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” beginning with the flying start.

“I really want to focus on the start, including the three laps prior to the green flag,” Barnhart said. “I want to focus on the spectacle and the beauty of the field of 33 preparing for the greatest race in the world. I want to see 11 rows of three for three laps, not single-file for two-and-a-half and then line up down the backstretch coming for the start. Stay in formation for all parade and pace laps.

“The cars are lined-up on the grid 100 feet from the row in front of them for a reason.

Polesitter Alex Tagliani and defending 500 winner Dario Franchitti both oppose double-file restarts.

The reason is that when the field pulls away, the drivers in each row have a reference of the distance they need to keep between rows.

“The parade laps are to acknowledge and thank the fans. Let’s do it in 11 rows of three and give them a formation that is worthy of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the inaugural running.”

Meanwhile, a number of prominent drivers – including 2010 Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti and 2011 pole-sitter Alex Tagliani – expressed concern during Media Day interviews on Thursday that the double-file restart rule could lead to disastrous results during Sunday’s 200-lapper. The first four IndyCar races of 2011 have been run on road or street circuits, and restarts have produced a series of crashes, some hard feelings and rumors in Gasoline Alley here that the sanctioning body might revert to single-file restarts for the first oval event of 2010.

Instead, Barnhart said the “restart zone” will begin across from the first pit at pit-in, which is occupied by Simona de Silvestro. “This line is 900 feet north of the start/finish line,” Barnhart said. “There will be triangles in the fence and stripes on the wall, both sides. This line will be the beginning of the restart zone. The second line is 400 feet closer to the start/finish line. This will define the restart zone. A reminder that the start/finish line is much closer to Turn 1 than Turn 4. It is not halfway down the front straight. The start/finish line is 900 feet away from the gate at turn-in into Turn 1.

“Speed at the north end behind the pace car will be 110 to 115 mph. After the pace car enters pit lane and exits the track, this speed must be maintained by all cars. Once the front row of cars has entered the restart zone, somewhere in the 400-feet, the leader must be the first car to accelerate. Once the leader accelerates, the green will be called and the lights/flags will be green. You may not change lanes or columns prior to the start/finish line. You may not improve your position prior to the start/finish line. No passing until after the start/finish line.

“For spacing, I would like to see about three car-lengths between rows down the front straight coming for the green.”

Barnhart then addressed the issue of marbles, or balls of tire rubber, building up along

Helio Castroneves signs autographs at Indy. Friday was Carb Day.

the outside groove heading into Turn 1. Barnhart said four sweepers – two on each end of the track – will be in use Sunday.

“Start getting in double-file formation at the black flag board on the backstretch,” Barnhart said. “If you are on the inside, (position your) left side tires down by the white line in the corners as you come around for the green. As you exit Turn 4, if you are on the inside, you have to stay in the middle of the track. There are paving seams on the front straight and cars on the inside need to straddle the middle seam, cars on the outside need to straddle the outside seam.

“If the speed at the first cone is 120 mph, you will be at 155 mph at the start/finish line and your speed at turn-in by the gate at Turn 1 will be 185 mph. That should be the fastest scenario. If the leader waits longer into the restart zone, the speed will be slower at Turn 1. Our thoughts are that you can be two-wide in Turn 1 at those speeds.”

Barnhart warned against any blocking moves, or impeding the progress of a trailing car by weaving or switching lanes.

“Be patient. Let the race come to you,” Barnhart said. “Don’t get frustrated. Concentration is critical. You have to be around at the finish and put yourself in a position to compete. This race is won by survivors and smart-thinkers, not just the fastest race car.”

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 27 2011


  • mark h says:

    fascinated at the info towards the middle of the article–how the hell do the drivers remember all that stuff while competitively piloting a land-missle?! thx john-

    • John Sturbin says:

      Was thinking the same thing as I wrote the story, Mark. But after interviewing several drivers on Media Day, they mostly favored a stricter enforcement of the “restart zone” outlined by Brian Barnhart. Appears both sides have been listening to one another this week.