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MILLER: The cruel business of racing

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Image by LAT

 

By: Robin Miller | 1 hour ago

 

 

As long as I’ve covered IndyCar racing (and this is approaching my seventh decade), I’ve always sided with drivers because they take the risks and usually they get kicked to the curb as fast as they turn in at Indy when owners are done with them.

 

Don’t get me wrong — car owners are a necessary evil in motorsports and without them there wouldn’t be any racing. Today’s financial pyramid is so inverted it’s amazing we have nine full-timers right now in the NTT IndyCar Series.

 

Sponsorship is king in IndyCar and has been since the ’80s when prices escalated, ride buyers became the norm and talent was no longer the direct ticket to get a ride.

 

What’s happened in the past few weeks illustrates the cruel business of being a professional racer and why nobody should ever feel safe.

 

A former champion, one of the most popular drivers on the circuit and a kid who climbed the ladder of success are all unemployed as we speak.

 

It appears Sebastian Bourdais got blindsided by Dale Coyne, while James Hinchcliffe was strung along like a Prom Night standby before getting dumped and Spencer Pigot lost out to the realities of IndyCar racing.

 

The timing sucked for all three, since there’s not much out there to choose from in November and it could be Indy 500-only duty for this trio in 2020.

 

But let’s get one thing out of the way up front: The Ed Carpenter Racing/Pigot situation was nothing like the other two, at least in terms of professionalism and honesty.

 

Carpenter went above and beyond to give Spencer a shot despite the fact he brought no money. That’s almost unheard of from a little team like ECR and the 2015 Indy Lights champion was with ECR for three years (the last two full-time) and that’s almost an eternity today.

 

True, they had a handshake agreement for the No. 21 car in 2020, but it was with the understanding that Ed needed sponsorship and Rinus Veekay delivered with JUMBO Foods. And it won’t be like IndyCar lost an American, because if things go right Conor Daly may be sharing the No. 20 car with the boss.

 

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Ed Carpenter (left) went above and beyond to help give Spencer Pigot (right) a proper shot in IndyCar. Image by LAT

 

To his credit, Pigot was all class when he got the word. He thanked Ed because he knew he’d been given a rare opportunity and he also knows how much money it takes to field an Indy car.

 

Hinch’s drama is a good example of bad PR and a lack of communication.

 

Even though he had one more year on his contract, The Mayor was thought to be a lame duck when McLaren came aboard to sponsor Arrow SPM in August. I kept saying he wouldn’t be driving for this team in 2020 because that’s all I kept hearing underground. And when Sam Schmidt went public with his guarantee that James would be driving for them next year, my understanding is that he was told to zip it by Arrow.

 

When they tried to give Hinch’s ride to Oliver Askew for the season finale at Laguna Seca, that’s all the evidence anyone needed.

 

Being replaced by IndyCar’s future, Pato O’Ward and Askew, is certainly no disgrace but the way it was handled certainly was and it left a bad taste in every Canadian fan’s mouth, as well as embarrassing Hinchcliffe. When you cheat death at Indy because of a faulty suspension part and come back to win the pole the next May, you don’t deserve that kind of farewell.

 

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Bourdais’ surprising split with Coyne calls the value of driver contracts into further question. Image by Barry Cantrell/LAT

 

Ditto for Bourdais. A four-time IndyCar champion who breathed new respect into Coyne’s operation the past three seasons, Seb seemed set for 2020 with engineer Craig Hampson and the final year of his contract. Not sure if SealMaster is out and we heard no more free engines from Honda, but IndyCar’s eternal little guy is back looking for a paid driver for No. 18.

 

The 40-year-old Frenchman, who overcame a monstrous crash going for quick time at Indy in 2017, was understandably furious with this late kick to the crotch and Marshall Pruett reported last week there was an offer to switch contracts with Hinch and place Seb at Arrow McLaren SP but Coyne refused it.

 

Unlike the other two veterans, at least Seb already has a good IMSA sports car ride lined up with JDC-Miller Motorsports.

 

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Although James Hinchcliffe had heard the rumblings, the way his departure from Arrow McLaren SPM played out was embarrassing. Image by Scott LePage/LAT

 

Of course the obvious questions are why bother to have contracts when they’re really not binding and how many owners can be classified as straight shooters? Sam is taking a lot of the heat for Hinch but I don’t think that’s entirely fair because he didn’t re-shuffle the line-up. Unlike Bourdais, at least The Mayor heard the rumblings and Honda of Canada confirmed it had him on its 2020 budget so he had to at least be pondering a Plan B.

 

But while these pink slips are gutting for the drivers and their followers, they’re more of an indictment of the system than anything else. ECR and Coyne did it to stay in this expensive game, while Arrow McLaren SP didn’t need money but wanted an infusion of youth.

 

The treatment of Hinch and Seb certainly isn’t anything for those team owners to be proud of but, as clichéd and as callous as it is, the bottom line is that it’s nothing personal – just the ball-busting business of big-time auto racing.

 

 

 

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Fernando Alonso says he is committed to a third bid to win the Indianapolis 500 next year - but does not yet know with which team.

 

The Spaniard is aiming to become the second man to win motorsport's triple crown, which also comprises Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix.

 

"I will definitely do Indy. Let's see how the next weeks unfold," said the two-time Formula 1 world champion.

 

And the 38-year-old said he was "open" to a possible return to F1 in 2021.

 

Alonso said his immediate ambition was to add an Indy victory to his career achievements.

 

In the past two years, he has added two Le Mans wins and the world endurance championship with Toyota, and the Daytona 24 Hours classic endurance event.

 

"Indy is the only one missing. If I do that after winning Le Mans, WEC, Daytona, there is nothing more I could ask. Definitely I will try again," he said.

 

 

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Dale Coyne has confirmed that James Hinchcliffe is on his shortlist of drivers to take the IndyCar seat vacated by Sebastien Bourdais, but said that F2 ace Sergio Sette Camara and Super Formula race winner Alex Palou are also in the running.

 

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Borde vozi za pare, Kojn je ostao bez nekih sponzora i nema da mu plati pa sad trazi nekog ko ce doneti neke pare da vozi.

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Dobre vesti, spasena je staza u Long Bicu:

 

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Concerns over the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach’s future have been allayed after the Los Angeles Angels Major League Baseball team announced a new deal to stay in the city of Anaheim.

 

In February, Long Beach major Robert Garcia proposed using the beachfront streets and parking area that form a significant portion of the temporary circuit where the grand prix is held as a new location for the Angels to construct a stadium.

 

With the team’s contract to use its current stadium in Anaheim set to expire at the end of 2020, the search for alternate locations to build a team-owned facility took place, leading Mayor Garcia to offer the site of the 44-year-old motor race as an option to explore.

 

The search was ended after a compromise was struck to keep the team in Anaheim through 2050.

 

“Today is the first step in enabling us to invest in our future by building a winning team and delivering a high-quality fan experience, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu said. “After years of uncertainty, we have a path forward for baseball in Anaheim. For every fan who told us to keep the Angels, this proposal would do exactly that.”

 

The 45th edition of the Acura GP of Long Beach takes place April 17-19.

 

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Fernando Alonso insists he will return to the Indianapolis 500 in 2020 and says his strongest options are to race for McLaren or Andretti.

 

The Spaniard led a number of laps for Andretti on his first attempt at Indy in 2017 before retiring with a Honda engine failure, but a return with McLaren this year saw the team fail to qualify. With McLaren entering IndyCar full-time next year as Arrow McLaren SP, Alonso says racing for one of those two teams is most likely as he still has his eyes set on winning at the Brickyard.

 

“Indy is the only one missing,” Alonso told the BBC, referring to motorsport’s unofficial triple crown. “If I do that after winning Le Mans, WEC, Daytona, there is nothing more I could ask. Definitely I will try again.

 

“They are not the only options but for sure they are the strongest two. I have a loyalty to McLaren and there is also how good I felt in Andretti, and I feel part of that staff and team. I have a very good relationship there.”

 

Alonso will not make a decision on his Indy 500 team until after his first attempt at the Dakar rally in January, and then will look at the possibility at returning to Formula 1 in 2021 once May is out of the way.

 

“First I want to do Dakar and Indy and then see if I’m missing F1. This year, it was nice to be out of the F1 bubble but my friends are saying, ‘Now you are out of F1 it is the time to enjoy life a bit.’ And I say that what makes me happy is to race.

 

“F1 is still a possibility. The 2021 rules are quite interesting. Maybe it will move things around a bit and make the cars easier to race. If it turns out I miss F1, I am open to coming back. Also the driver market is very open for 2021, so there is no hurry to make a decision.”

 

 

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Ganassi reveals updated aeroscreen look

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By: Marshall Pruett | 1 hour ago

 

 

Chip Ganassi Racing unveiled the first NTT IndyCar Series entry with its new-for-2020 aeroscreen fitted and wrapped for competition.

 

Scott Dixon’s primary No. 9 Dallara DW12-Honda chassis, sporting the colors of its primary sponsor PNC Bank, has been finished with the Red Bull Advanced Technologies-designed aeroscreen affixed to its new mounting points on the carbon fiber tub, and dressed in the same orange, blue, and while motif found elsewhere on the open-wheel machine.

 

With creative freedom offered by the series with the upper portion of the protective polycarbonate screen, CGR’s graphics team opted, at this early stage, to forego placing sponsor logos on the front of the aeroscreen. At the rear of the screen, IndyCar has mandated its series logo, and the logo for its official fuel supplier, Speedway. Although options exist for placement of the engine manufacturer badge, CGR chose to position it next to IndyCar’s logo.

 

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Also visible on Dixon’s car is the revised damper cover, which feeds air to the cockpit through new openings created at the base of the aeroscreen.

 

“It’s been a well-thought-out process,” CGR managing director Mike Hull told RACER. “Attention to detail is very apparent, and the time element is a big deal. The process includes the shock cover, modifications to the tub, installing the mounting points for the aeroscreen, the titanium halo, and the screen itself, all of which came from different vendors, and it all fits!”

 

 

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- Konor Dejli zvanicno potvrdjen u Karpenterovom bolidu #20 za ne-ovalne staze (gazda Ed vozi sve ovale) + nastup na Indi 500 u trecem Karpenterovom bolidu. U #21 je vec ranije za celu sezonu potvrdjen ruki Rinus ViKej.

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- Za sada nepotvrdjene glasine ali izgleda da ce u jednom od dva Fojtova bolida kompletnu sezonu voziti Carli Kimbal.

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- Dzejms Dejvison potvrdjen u trecem Kojnovom bolidu samo za Indi 500. Jos uvek se ne zna nista zvanicno ko ce voziti u dva standardna Kojnova bolida, u jednom se ocekuje povratak Santina Ferucija dok se za drugi pominje moguca vrteska vozaca a u kombinaciji su Aleks Palu (vozio japansku SuperFornulu), Serdjo Sete Kamara (vozio F2) i Dzejms Hincklif (dobio otkaz u AMSP timu). Sebastijan Borde koji je do sada vozio za Kojna ce po glasinama deliti bolid sa Tonijem Kananom kod Fojta.

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- Junkos Rejsing, heroji proslogodisnjih kvalifikacija za Indi 500 sa stap-i-kanap budzetom su u velikim finansijskim problemima - Rikardo Junkos je potvrdio da su pred bankrotom, da nema novca za ucesce na IMSA 24h Dejtone a i ostatak aktivnosti za narednu sezonu kako u IMSA tako i u Indikaru je pod znakom pitanja ako ubrzo ne pronadju sponzore.

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- Spanac Aleks Palu, proslogodisnji ruki sezone u japanskoj SuperFormuli vozice kompletnu sezonu Indikar sampionata za Kojna (verovatno bolid #19 u kome je do sada bio Santino Feruci)

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The NTT IndyCar Series will make a key change to its push-to-pass system in an effort to disguise its use among teams.

 

RACER has learned IndyCar will continue its practice of giving every driver a fixed amount of extra turbocharger boost, worth approximately 40hp, to aid in passing or defending on road and street courses, but will remove the ability for teams to track its use in real time during the race.

 

Although drivers do not have the capability of monitoring real-time push-to-pass information for nearby rivals, their race strategists have become adept at watching the push-to-pass data made available on the timing stand and using pit-to-car radio transmissions to alert their pilots when a driver they’re pursuing or trying to hold off has activated the system.

 

The new 2020 push-to-pass program will strip the live information from the data offered to its teams in favor of sending a single update at the end of each lap. If Driver A uses 10 seconds of push-to-pass during the lap to eke out an advantage over Driver B, the action will only be revealed when Driver A crosses the finish line and his or her remaining allotment of push-to-pass decreases by 10 seconds. The same masking of push-to-pass activation will also keep the system’s use private by drivers attempting to overtake with the extra 40hp in hand.

 

The change is meant to remove push-to-pass as a nullifying tool where drivers are alerted to its activation and asked to match the usage, thereby rendering the passing attempt through a temporary horsepower spike ineffective.

 

 

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The NTT IndyCar Series will take what it learned in July at Texas Motor Speedway with two-stage pit lane speed limiters and apply the practice to the remaining ovals on the calendar.

 

Due to the extreme differential found between drivers exiting the winding TMS pit lane at 60mph and needing to get up to speed with cars flying by at 200mph or more, the series introduced a two-stage speed limiter system last season where 60mph was maintained on pit lane and, once drivers crossed the pit exit line, it increased to 90mph while rounding the long exit lane inside Turns 1 and 2.

 

The two-stage adjustment, which was met with universal praise, will return to Texas where the series is also considering adding it in reverse fashion to the long pit-in lane that starts in Turn 3, using 90mph for the trip to the top of pit lane, and 60mph while on pit lane.

 

Although the number for the higher speed could be tailored to fit the size of the other ovals, IndyCar intends to bring the two-stage pit speed limiter exit practice to Iowa, Gateway, and Richmond. The Indy 500 has a separate and unique pit-in and pit-out arrangement where no limits are placed on speed before or after pit lane.

 

 

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IndyCar tightens COTA track limits

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Image courtesy IMS

 

By: Marshall Pruett | 5 hours ago

 

 

IndyCar’s days of drivers running wide at Circuit of The Americas’ Turn 19 without fear of repercussion are over.

 

RACER has learned the NTT IndyCar Series will put a stop to the practice seen during its inaugural event at the Texas road course where drivers freely extended the corner by driving past the corner exit curbing to carve a wider and faster trail through COTA’s penultimate turn.

 

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Turn 19. Image courtesy IMS Photo

 

At the 2019 COTA weekend, drivers had mixed reactions to the unenforced use of Turn 19, which offered higher speeds and reduced lap times by ignoring the painted line to demark the end of the racing surface and the start of the expansive runoff area.

 

Polesitter Will Power summarized the general feeling most offered at the time:

 

“Turn 19 is obviously just interesting,” the Team Penske driver said at Spring Training. “You have to use the rule to be fast. The rest, it’s a difficult track.”

 

Starting next February at the Spring Training event held on the sprawling 20-turn facility, IndyCar officials will install a new timing line at the exit of high-speed left-hand corner. With the electronic monitoring loop in place, drivers will be required to cross over the timing line to the left of the curbing in order to trigger the system.

 

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Map data ©2019 Google

 

The only way to miss the new timing line is to run wide at Turn 19, which will create an alert for IndyCar’s timing and scoring staff to investigate the reason for straying from the intended track limits by reviewing on-board or trackside video.

 

It’s believed IndyCar’s race control team will void any qualifying laps at COTA where the Turn 19 timing line is missed. In the race, violations and unique circumstances, such as drivers going side-by-side where the outside driver is forced into the runoff area, will be reviewed before some form of penalty is assessed.

 

 

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MILLER: Byrd planning 'IndyCar assault' on the Chili Bowl

jamesd40salem.jpg?w=1000&h=565&crop=1 Image courtesy Indy
 

By: Robin Miller | 1 hour ago

 

 

Tony Stewart closed out 2019 by sweeping last weekend’s indoor midget races at Fort Wayne, and it’s always well received when a former USAC legend/old schooler returns to his roots and gives the paying customers a show.

 

David Byrd doesn’t drive race cars and obviously can’t draw a crowd or sell tickets like Stewart, but his passion and business acumen has made him a player in open-wheel racing and he’s going to kick off the 2020 racing season in next month’s Chili Bowl with a three-pronged effort that will get IndyCar some much-needed publicity during its six months of darkness.

 

He’s teaming with Scott Petry, the man whose company build the dirt track at IMS, for Conor Daly’s second run in the midget classic at Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 

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David Byrd

After fielding cars at Indianapolis twice for James Davison, Byrd has the Aussie lined up for his Chili Bowl debut with a car from Flea Ruzic’s stable.

 

And Santino Ferrucci, one of the most exciting newcomers on four wheels this past season in the NTT IndyCar series, will be wheeling a Byrd-supported Boss midget for Jody Rosenboom when practice begins on January 13.

 

“You know how strongly my family has always felt about USAC, short tracks and the Indy 500. It’s incredibly difficult these days to get a short-track guy to Indianapolis, so we’ve decided to go the other way and take some IndyCar drivers to short tracks,” said Byrd, whose late father (Jonathan) owned, entered, and sponsored Indy cars for 17 years, and made sure USAC great Rich Vogler had five good rides for the biggest race in the world.

 

“I just love the fact that we’ve got some guys who like to take on a challenge.”

 

The 42-year-old Phoenix resident, who operates the Byrd Hotel Group, followed his father’s lead in 2015 and 2016 when he helped bring Bryan Clauson back to the Speedway, after the USAC star made his Indy 500 debut in 2012 for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

 

After Clauson lost his life in 2016 during a midget race, Byrd came back to IMS with Davison in 2018 in a partnership with AJ Foyt Racing, and they made the show with the smallest budget in Gasoline Alley.

 

While jumping from car to car as an IndyCar super sub, Daly first tried his hand in a Landon Simon midget at the inaugural BC39. He struggled to get comfortable in his first dirt-track action, but was determined to improve, running the Junior Knepper Classic in DuQuoin in Dec. 2018 before hitting midget racing’s biggest stage in Jan. 2019, running both races in a Byrd-supported car owned by Jody Rosenboom.

 

The second-generation driver was serious about improving, and after running better in the 2019 BC39 in a Petry Motorsports entry, Byrd and Petry took Daly to Arizona earlier this month for a USAC national midget doubleheader at Arizona Speedway. He made the A Main both nights, transferring through his heat race on night one and then charging from the back of the B Main on night two, finishing just behind Rico Abreu.

 

This past year, Davey Hamilton and Byrd had a plan to get USAC dirt star Kevin Thomas Jr. some pavement experience in a Silver Crown car with the eventual focus on an Indy Lights ride at IMS (like Byrd has done for USAC champ Chris Windom the past two Mays). But, when the Salem round conflicted with the Knoxville Nationals, Thomas had to take a pass and that’s when Byrd asked his Indy 500 driver if he wanted to try a USAC Silver Crown car at Salem.

 

Hmmm, let’s see. Debut in a long, powerful, front-engine car on one of the most treacherous half mile tracks in the country? Sure, sign me up.

 

Davison finished ninth in his Silver Crown debut at Salem before coming back to Lucas Oil Raceway Park (photo above) where he earned all kinds of respect and a fifth-place finish.

 

“He loved it,” reported Byrd. “At Salem, James said he hadn’t worked that hard in a race car in a long time, and that he never had as much fun driving a race car.”

 

The third piece of this story started at the airport after this year’s Brickyard 400, just after the BC39. “Santino asked me how Conor got to run the midget and I told him because he was one of the only IndyCar guys willing and able to give it a shot. Santino said he wanted to do it, too …”

 

So, earlier this month at Canyon Speedway in Arizona, Ferrucci ran 100 laps in a 410 sprint car (as did Davison) and is looking forward to Tulsa Town next month.

 

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Byrd has a number of loyal partners and sponsors that help fund his racing program, and he’s going to run Davison again this May at Indy, as well as the Daytona 500 and the four IMSA Endurance races.

 

“The Byrd/Petry midget is open to any IndyCar driver who wants to try it,” said Byrd. “I like doing interesting things that bring additional attention to short-track racing. I even had a former F1 driver and LeMans winner lined up for the Chili Bowl, but scheduling conflicts derailed that plan. I keep seeing how much Fernando Alonso likes to try different cars, so maybe we’ll go after him for 2021.”

 

 

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- Kastroneves potvrdjen u cetvrtom Penskijevom bolidu za Indi 500 u jos jednom pokusaju za osvajanje istorijske cetvrte pobede.

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The NTT IndyCar Series is expected to revise its rule governing work conducted on cars during a red flag. RACER has learned the series intends to prohibit any efforts to work on a damaged car while the race is stopped with a rule modification that calls for immediate exclusion if the regulation is violated.

 

Following the five-car pile-up on the first lap at Pocono Raceway that led to an extended red flag period (pictured above) while the circuit underwent repairs, the damaged cars of Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe were mended by their teams.

 

Citing Rule 7.1.4.2.4, which states, “Unapproved work performed on a Car not related to INDYCAR approved safety issues while under a Red Condition will result in a minimum two (2) lap penalty, which will be enforced in a manner determined by INDYCAR,” both teams deemed the cost more than acceptable in order to get the three cars ready for the return to racing. By getting an early start on repairs, the cars were able to rejoin the action with a greater number of laps left in the race and, in theory, advance farther up the finishing order to capture a bigger points haul.

 

Rossi’s car, in particular, was a high priority due to the Californian holding second in the championship with four rounds — including Pocono — left to run. Having circumvented the series’ intent for the rule, all three cars were assessed 10-lap penalties by race control.

 

For their efforts, Rossi’s No. 27 Honda was able to return to the race and finish 18th in the 22-car field, earning 12 points. Hunter-Reay earned 11 points for his run to 19th, and Hinchcliffe took home 10 points for 20th.

 

With the anticipated adjustment to the rule for 2020, teams with an interest in repairing their damaged cars will be forced to wait until the red flag is removed or face expulsion.

 

 

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If the NTT IndyCar Series finds itself with another situation like the crash-happy opening lap of the 2019 Portland Grand Prix, race control will employ a speedier method to reordering the field for the restart.

 

RACER has learned the series will largely abandon the timely and complex practice of reviewing multiple forms of input to determine which cars crashed and stopped in a specific sequence, and which cars might have driven off track to gain positions during a significant incident, to sort the field ahead of the return to racing.

 

As an example, the opening 11 laps of the 100-lap Portland contest, including the time required to remove a number of stranded cars from the Turn 1 chicane, were consumed as race control sought to determine where each of the remaining entries should be placed for the restart as more yellow laps were needed to manually realign the field.

 

With Turn 1 cleared, and to the dismay of some fans, the pace car stayed out for an extended period as intensive video reviews and timing sector data was investigated to determine how the jumbled cars should be organized.

 

Wherever it benefits a faster resumption of racing, a simplified process for 2020 is expected to feature reverting to the last timeline successfully crossed by the field. By using the most recent pre-crash running order as captured by IndyCar’s timing and scoring system, race control expects to shorten the gap between clearing the circuit of stricken cars and getting the contest back to green.

 

IndyCar is also expected to reserve the use of video replays to assist, if necessary, in getting the restart order correct when faced with complicated crash scenarios.

 

For the cars involved in the crash that cannot immediately continue, require repairs, or are too badly damaged to race, IndyCar’s sorting of the tail-end cars is unlikely to change for 2020.

 

Once a car has come to a stop, it forfeits the ability to retake its original position in the field, and is placed at the back of the running cars in the order it arrived after receiving a restart or any necessary repairs. For cars that are unable to complete the first lap and retire, their place at the bottom of the final standings will continue to be set by the order they crossed the start/finish line to begin the race.

 

 

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