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INDYCAR Revises Pit Road, Lapped Car Rules

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 10 2012

Opening pit road sooner during cautions is one of the new rules announced this week by INDYCAR officials. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Rules revisions relevant to pit road and lapped traffic during IZOD IndyCar Series road and street-course races will go into effect beginning with Sunday’s 38th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Beaux Barfield, INDYCAR president of competition, announced Monday that pit road will be open from the outset of non-emergency full-course cautions on road and street-courses, potentially cutting the number of laps run under yellow. The change will begin on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary Long Beach street circuit and be employed for the remainder of the season. Additionally, lapped traffic will move to the rear of the field during any restarts in the final 20 laps of road/street-course events.

“The pits have historically been closed during full-course yellows to make sure that not only the field is under control but in order before opening the pits,” said Barfield, IndyCar Series race director. “As such, it leads to this rush when all 26 cars come in at the same time. It can be exciting but it definitely is a contributing factor to some of the pit lane issues that we’ve had in the recent past.”

Barfield previewed the procedural alteration in non-emergency situations, such as a car off-course, during the first two IndyCar Series races of 2012. Only one incidence of contact – a single car into the tires –necessitated a full-course yellow in the events on the temporary street circuit at St. Petersburg, Fla., and the Barber Motorsports Park road-course in Birmingham, Ala.

“I’ve delayed the call of the full-course yellows during the first few races, being cognizant of where the

Beaux Barfield wants to cut down on the number of yellow-flag laps.

leader is and the possibility of disadvantaging the leader and other cars in the field that have legitimate gaps over the cars behind them if that yellow is too early,” Barfield said in a statement. “First and foremost, it can only be called in a non-emergency situation when the driver is not in immediate danger so you can wait a half-a-lap to make sure you’ve given everybody a chance to pit before you call the full-course yellow.

“A pits-open full-course yellow would be similar, so you give the leader the first chance to pit when you’ve made the announcement. It probably puts slightly less emphasis on pit work or allows people to maintain that advantage where they might be able to make more adjustments in the pits.”

The safety car will be dispatched to pick up the next competitor – either one that remains on-track or comes out of the pits – until the restart.

“It keeps the field organized in such a way that there’s no reorder when we go back to green, and it potentially shortens the yellows,” Barfield said. “Now we’re not going full-course yellow, waiting a lap to gather the cars and there’s less chance for wave-arounds at the end. Considering we’ve had three- and four-lap yellows already this year, which I’m happy with, this will allow for yellows as short as two laps.”

Cars that are not on the lead lap during an upcoming restart during the final 20 laps will peel off and drive through pit lane on the speed limiter and cycle back to the end of the line. “That keeps everybody up-front racing for position and keeps the race interesting to the end,” Barfield said.

Sunday’s race – Round 3 of the series – will be telecast live at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by NBC Sports Network. The IMS Radio Network also will carry the event live on XM Channel 94 and Sirius 212. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Grand Prix of Long Beach, also on Sunday. The event will be telecast by NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. (EDT) on April 19.

Former Formula One star Rubens Barrichello, ineligible to compete for IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year honors, nevertheless will receive some benefits accorded to first-year drivers for the remainder

Rubens Barrichello is in his first season, but is not a rookie. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)

of the season. Barrichello’s status has been “re-evaluated based on team request,” said Beaux Barfield, INDYCAR president of competition.

Barrichello enters this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach off an eighth-place result in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, where he tested in the weeks leading to the 90-lap race on April 1. The Brazilian will join rookies and entrants outside the top-10 of the championship standings in Group A (10-10:30 a.m. local) on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit, and continue in Group B (10:30-11 a.m.)

“(Barrichello) will be allowed to participate in the first 30 minutes of the first practice session and he also gets an extra set of tires,” Barfield said. “So that’s a benefit. Street circuits can be quirky and difficult to learn and he has the benefit of that extra set of tires and the extra 30 minutes of practice to learn the track quickly and get down to business.”

Barfield added that Barrichello will not receive the extra time/tires at Infineon Raceway in August because he tested there twice – including on Monday – or any other track where he tests with KV Racing Technology.

The 19-year F1 veteran, who turns 40 in May, was classified as a rookie on ovals before climbing into the No. 8 BMC/Embrase KV Racing Technology Dallara/Chevrolet for the first time in March for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Barrichello will participate in a rookie oval test at Texas Motor Speedway on May 6, one day before an IndyCar Series Open Test on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval in Fort Worth. Barrichello also will participate in the Rookie Orientation Program at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May in preparation for the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

Reigning IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti posted the quickest time Monday as five teams participated in a one-day test at Infineon Raceway in preparation for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Dario Franchitti did well in his Infineon test. (Photos courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series).

Franchitti’s lap in 1 minute, 17.2 seconds over the 12-turn, 2.303-mile road-course in California was the quickest among 13 participants. For a comparison, Team Penske’s Will Power qualified on-pole last August in 1:18.6017 at 105.479 mph en route to a victory over teammate Helio Castroneves. Power’s winning average speed for the 75-lapper was 96.408 mph.

Franchitti, the four-time series champion and driver of the No. 10 Dallara/Honda, was followed by Target teammates Charlie Kimball (1:17.4) and Graham Rahal (1:17.5). KV Racing Technology teammates E.J. Viso (1:17.80) and Tony Kanaan (1:17.84) rounded out the top-five in their Chevrolet-powered Dallara DW12s.

“I like this track very much,” said Formula One transplant Rubens Barrichello, who was sixth-quickest in his KV Racing Technology Dallara/Chevy at 1:17.88. “It’s very difficult with the blind apexes. It’s good that I can test again, and every time I’m improving. A track like this is very good and it teaches me a lot.”

Other participants included Penske teammates Power (1:18.5), Ryan Briscoe (1:18.8) and Castroneves (1:80.9), as well as Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti in Dallara/Chevrolets. All times were reported by the drivers; no times were available for either Hinchcliffe or Hunter-Reay, while Andretti did not complete any laps.

“This place is really challenging with the elevation changes. Even the straightaways have curves,” said Castroneves, who won at Sonoma in 2008. “The layout here will always be tough and I think this year’s race will come down to strategy, particularly with the smaller fuel tanks. It’s not just about passing. I can guarantee you one thing – this year’s race will be exciting, not follow-the-leader.”

Infineon Raceway will host the Indy® Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 24-26. The weekend also will feature the SCCA Pro Racing Pirelli World Challenge and Formula Car Championship. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 800-870-RACE (7223) or visitinfineonraceway.com/indycar.

The Andretti name holds a prominent place in the 38-year history of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Andretti Autosport has won the last two IZOD IndyCar Series races on the Southern California circuit, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (2010) and Mike Conway (2011) prevailing in America’s most prestigious street race. Mario Andretti won the race when it was a Formula One event in 1977 before adding Indy-car victories in 1984-85 and 1987. Team-owner Michael Andretti posted unique bookend victories at Long Beach, earning his first career Indy-car win in 1986 and then winning for the final time in his stellar career 16 years later in 2002.

Marco Andretti, grandson of Mario and son of Mikey, will be competing in his fourth Long Beach event this weekend. Marco gained 13 spots in his Long Beach debut in 2009, finishing sixth after leading six laps. He finished 24th, one lap down to winner Will Power, in a 28-car field last year.

“I want to turn my street course game around this weekend and go for a win,” said Marco, driver of the No. 26 RC Cola Dallara/Chevrolet. “I’m super-competitive, so I want to win everywhere and every time. Even if it’s a warm-up lap, if they’re keeping track of the times, I want to be at the top of the list. But it would mean a lot to me to win at Long Beach. I love the track and I love the atmosphere of the event. My family has a lot of history here, and it’s a place where my dad got his first and last Indy-car wins, so it would be special for me to win here.”

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

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 10 2012
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Gordon Clay says:

    IndyCar rules changes: And the purpose of a full course yellow on road and street courses? I don’t get it. Especially in an off-course situation with no danger to the driver or emergency team. You have a waving yellow at least two corners before the situation. You have a waving white for emergency vehicle in transit, two corners before the vehicle, both of which require no passing. The rest of the track is a race track so why not let them race? Ask the drivers what they think.

    • Michael says:

      I agree. Wish they would figure that out. Beaux Barfield has said he is trying to stay green more and more. Indycar needs cranes like F1 has to get cars off the track quickly and efficiently.

      However, leaving the pits open is a great rule I’ve been waiting years for. This is especially good for ovals where you cant have a local yellow.