IndyCar working to “eliminate randomness” from races

Revising the rules regarding closed pits under full-course caution periods and deciding on a new procedure for oval qualifying are under discussion by IndyCar and its teams, following last week’s meeting between the series and team managers.

IndyCar working to “eliminate randomness” from races
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet follows the pace car
Chevrolet pace car at the head of pre-race grid
Testing opened under a running caution for a few minutes dut to cool track temperature
Safety crews at work
Safety car out under caution
Champ Car safety team under caution
Jay Frye, president of IndyCar
Caution
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet
Holmatro Safety Team signage
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda, is helped out of his car by the Holmatro Safety Team after crash

Jay Frye, president of competition and operations at IndyCar, has pledged to try and change the procedures that can harm the “purity” of the races, and to try and ensure the best teams and drivers at any given event, rather than the lucky ones, are rewarded.

One of the regular topics of debate over the past decade and more has been the automatic closing of the pits under full-course cautions. Even at its best, this eliminates the gaps between cars, but at its worse it can upend the running order.

If some drivers have pitted already and then the yellows fly, those who haven’t pitted  – perhaps because they’ve been better at going fast while fuel saving – are left stranded on the track at pacecar speed, allowing those who have pitted already to pack up behind them, and then hit the front once the pitlane is opened and the leaders go for their fuel and tire stops.

Frye told Motorsport.com that he wishes to alter this procedure so as not to punish the best drivers.

“Every offseason we look at what we did in the prior season and examine what we can do better,” he said. “We check out what technology is out there for 2018 that maybe wasn’t there going into ’17, and figure out how that might help what we’re currently doing from a procedural process.

“And closing the pits under yellow falls under that discussion topic. Anything we can do to make track position and running order less random, the better. We owe it to our teams, drivers and our fans to come up with a solution that doesn’t randomize things, doesn’t leave people asking questions and wondering what just happened.

“So I’m going to COTA for the Formula 1 race this weekend to see what technology they have that could help us, what would fit for us. Having Cosworth and Pi electronics for all teams and engines in IndyCar should make it possible to come up with a solution.”

Although Frye wasn’t yet prepared to discuss how they might impose speed restrictions – via Race Control, virtual safety car, fixed speeds past accident scenes, etc. – he did say that protecting drivers and safety crew members would remain the imperative part of any new procedure. The main reason for currently closing the pits under caution is so those who haven’t pitted won’t continue at racing speed past an accident scene in order to pit and regain the track without losing their on-track advantage over those who’ve stopped already.

“There’s the purity of the event to consider, and also the safety component to consider,” said Frye. “So can we have a sort of hybrid procedure going forward, so pit closures aren’t automatic? Can there be times when we don’t close the pits, and times when we do?

“Maybe we do it differently according to the type of venue. Some of our limitations have been imposed by the diversity of the series’ tracks, so for example, when we go to street courses, there are certain things we can’t do. Timelines on city streets or runways can become an issue.

“But we are looking different technology to see if we can find a solution that will make a positive difference. We’ll come up with A, B and C options, talk to everybody about these and get their opinions. Then once we decide on the solution and write the rules accordingly, we’ll make sure everybody including the fans understand the criteria going forward.”

Oval qualifying procedure set to change

Frye's quest to ensure IndyCar racing is a meritocracy also extends to qualifying procedure on ovals. There have been increasing calls from drivers to change how running order is decided – currently achieved by names being picked out of a hat – since the early runners encounter the least favorable track conditions. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Will Power recently told Motorsport.com that this can be so critical when it comes to race/championship outcomes that an alternative method needed to be found. It’s a point with which Frye agreed.

“Yeah, we’re definitely looking at it, again to remove this random element in a race weekend,” he said. “As you’d imagine, there’s probably five or six legitimate ways of doing it differently – practice speeds, going in reverse order of points, and so on – and we’re looking at several different options.

“Over the course of five or six events, the odds are that the order selection will shake out – good draw, bad draw – but it may not. And like I said, I’m a big proponent of procedures and processes, and the less randomness the better.

“But when you throw out to the team managers different scenarios as possibilities, the answers that come back will point out the nuances of each one, good and bad. So we’ll sort through those nuances for each procedure and decide which is the best.

“So in answer to your question, is oval qualifying going to change from last season? Probably, yes, but I’m not sure which direction we’re going to go yet.”

shares
comments
IndyCar plans to test cockpit shield “before the end of this year”

Previous article

IndyCar plans to test cockpit shield “before the end of this year”

Next article

Verizon to quit as IndyCar title sponsor, remain with Penske

Verizon to quit as IndyCar title sponsor, remain with Penske
Load comments
Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win Prime

Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win

Saturday, Oct. 16th, marks the 10th anniversary Dan Wheldon’s death. David Malsher-Lopez pays tribute, then asks Wheldon’s race engineer from 2011, Todd Malloy, to recall that magical second victory at the Indianapolis 500.

IndyCar
Oct 16, 2021
Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up? Prime

Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up?

Jack Harvey’s move to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing sparked plenty of debate, but their combined strength could prove golden, says David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Oct 15, 2021
Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting Prime

Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting

Kyle Kirkwood, the record-setting junior formula driver, sealed the Indy Lights championship last weekend. But despite an absurdly strong résumé and scholarship money, his next move is far from clear. By David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Oct 6, 2021
2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star Prime

2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star

Alex Palou has captured Chip Ganassi Racing's 14th IndyCar drivers' championship, and in truly stellar manner. David Malsher-Lopez explains what made the Palou-Ganassi combo so potent so soon.

IndyCar
Sep 28, 2021
Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar Prime

Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar

One of motorsport’s worst-kept secrets now out in the open, and Romain Grosjean has been confirmed as an Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver in 2022. It marks a remarkable turnaround after the abrupt end to his Formula 1 career, and is a firm indication of his commitment to challenge for the IndyCar Series title  

IndyCar
Sep 24, 2021
IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch Prime

IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch

The 2021 IndyCar silly season is one of the silliest of all, but it’s satisfying to see so many talented drivers in play – including Callum Ilott. David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Sep 11, 2021
IndyCar young guns are great, but the elders aren’t done yet Prime

IndyCar young guns are great, but the elders aren’t done yet

The ace 20-somethings in IndyCar have risen to become title contenders, but the best of the series veterans are digging deep and responding – and will continue to do so over the next couple of years, says David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Aug 20, 2021
The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career Prime

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career

Emerson Fittipaldi’s decision to go racing with his brother led to him falling out of F1, but he bloomed again on the IndyCar scene. NIGEL ROEBUCK considers a career of two halves

Formula 1
Jul 31, 2021