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DATE News (chronologically)
09/24/11
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MILLER: It's Time For Standing Starts  This isn’t going to be a rant about Brian Barnhart’s non-penalty on Dario Franchitti. And it’s not going to harp on the boring parade at Japan. Nor will it spend much time lampooning Barnhart’s see-no-evil call on Sebastien Bourdais for drop kicking Ryan Hunter-Reay into the sand trap.

And Helio has already said enough about his over-the-top penalty.

No, today’s sermon will focus on the sorry start at Motegi, the embarrassing starts and restarts at many street/road courses this year and the overall joke of impersonating a professional racing series when the green flag waves.

What we witnessed in Japan would have been laughable if it wasn’t so maddening. The first couple rows managed to get side-by-side before accelerating but the last 10 cars in the field were creeping single file through the final corner as pole-sitter Scott Dixon exited Turn 1.

It not only robbed the fans of the most exciting moment of the day, it screwed anybody who wasn’t in the first four rows. And the subsequent restarts were just as lame.

It’s the same song and dance at Long Beach, Toronto, Sonoma and Baltimore as the field is fractured and strung out and void of that electricity which accompanies flying starts.

But there’s an easy solution and it must be instituted for 2012.

Simply go to standing starts at every street and road course, keeping flying starts on all ovals.

“I think that standing starts can happen with our new cars,” said Tony Cotman, the project manager for the 2012 car/engine who is also writing a new rulebook.

“And, with the restrictions of some of our tracks where we don’t have a straightaway long enough to get everybody lined up, it would be much more fair and probably more exciting.”

Cotman knows of what he speaks since he chose to go to standing starts in 2007 when he was Champ Car’s chief steward. There was a lot of bitching and moaning that it wouldn’t work but it was a winner in every way.

It looked great as all the cars took their spot on the grid, there was the anticipation with the lights turning and having the entire field on the same patch of road was a helluva lot more racy than the crap we’ve seen this season. Will Power almost went from fifth to first at Portland in ’07 and there would be no need for a chicane in the straightaway like at Baltimore.

On top of that, the slower speeds going into the first turn allowed the field to get through cleanly. That’s right, there wasn’t a crash in Turn 1 at Portland, Cleveland, Toronto, Edmonton, San Jose, Elkhart Lake, Australia or Mexico City.

And nobody stalled either.

“We had some glitches with software at first and that’s why we waited until Portland to debut it and hopefully now it would be even better,” continued Cotman. “The hand clutch is much simpler and you’ve only got two pedals so there’s no reason to creep.

“One foot on the brake, one foot on the throttle and your finger on the clutch, it would be good. Maybe we could start with the new car and wait to introduce (standing starts) after Indianapolis.”

Of course there will be the traditionalists screaming that this isn’t Formula One and INDYCAR needs to stay with flying starts everywhere.

That’s crap. Just about every tradition at Indy has been stomped on or thrown out during the past 16 years and standing starts for road races would simply make the show so much better.

(And, if you want to get technical, we haven’t had a traditional flying start at Indy for a long time, have we Brian?)

Cotman doesn’t like two-abreast restarts on streets or road courses but he’s all for standing starts in 2012 if he gets the nod.

“Randy (Bernard, INDYCAR CEO) wasn’t around in ’07 so maybe we need to show him some videos of those Champ Car races and then he can decide if that’s the direction he wants to go,” said Cotman, who said the wear and tear on drivelines in Champ Car from standing starts was equivalent to one extra pit stop.

“I don’t think it’s up to me as an outside guy but if INDYCAR wants to go that direction they just need to tell me and we’ll make it work.” SPEEDtv.com

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