IndyCar race director reviews 2013 IndyCar rules changes - Q and A
IndyCar race director Beaux Barfield spoke to Curt Cavin and his radio show co-host, Kevin Lee, about some of the changes coming to the sport in 2013. The following is a transcript from WFNI-1070 AM in Indianapolis.
Question: You've tweaked qualifying on road courses and short ovals. Will those changes be for all such events, with a shorter first segment [10 minutes instead of 15]?
Barfield: Yes. It's a little bit different for the doubleheaders and I'd have to get out my rulebook to actually consult that but ultimately for the Fast Six qualifying format which will apply to the doubleheaders on Friday and all other road and street courses, we made those changes to the timing to put a premium on track time. There's obviously times that we waved the green flag to start a session and it might be three or four minutes before the first car even goes on track. So there's obviously some strategy to going later so the cars are out there when the track is rubbered up and there's the most grip and they can go the fastest. So we decided to back-fill that and chop the first five minutes out. Once we wave the green flag all cars should be heading straight out on track.
Q: One of the changes made is that teams can now run any tire combination they want in qualifying. Was that a point of emphasis from the teams?
BB: We didn't get a complete consensus, as I think you can imagine, but we did get enough input that kind of matched the consensus of our officiating group where we thought that was the right direction to go. It created some intrigue, some strategy, both really for all teams involved. There's situations where teams might elect to basically forgo the possibility of transferring to Fast Six for the sake of holding back a set of red [tires] to have for the race. So those strategies as they play out over the entire weekend create some very interesting scenarios.
Q: Now you don't have to go all in. You can start off on black tires and switch to reds if you choose.
BB: Absolutely. There's a lot of scenarios; it's kind of mind-numbing. We kind just talked about tire selection for qualifying and as it might play out over a weekend, but we sat there literally for months in the office talking about so many different scenarios as they apply to all of the rules to come up with a rules package that we think makes the most sense for the competitors and of course the fans.
Q: For the doubleheader weekends [Detroit, Toronto and Houston], there will be a 30-minute all-skate on Saturday morning that will serve two purposes: Setting the lineup for the second race and providing a morning warm-up for the first race. It also will set pit selection for the next like event. Is that right?
BB: Yes, that's right. That second qualifying session, which is a 30-minute open all-skate session as you mentioned will be on Saturday morning of the doubleheaders, and it will determine the starting lineup for the Sunday race, race No. 2 on a doubleheader and also pit selection for the following events. So we have looked at a lot of different scenarios there again to find out what made the most sense for the competitors and for the show. That was really the most sensible that we could come up with. It made sense to give everybody a shot not only to qualify for race No. 2 but if somebody had an issue on the Friday afternoon in Fast Six [qualifying] or anytime on Friday and didn't get a chance to go out, that also serves as a warm-up for them.
Q: Toronto and Houston will have a standing start for the Saturday race. Why will Detroit have rolling starts for both races?
BB: As we implement standing starts for 2013, there are many circuit specific things to take into consideration. There obviously needs to be a wide enough front straight, there needs to be a straight enough front straight, and [there needs to be] a last turn that accommodates it and a first turn that accommodates it. When you really look at all those parameters, because of the nature of the Belle Isle circuit, there's a bend right before pit [entrance], there's a fairly short run after pit in down the main straight. Turn one is certainly conducive to standing starts but the straight itself for getting the cars gridded up and lined up certainly wasn't as compatible as we'd like so we decided to stick with rolling starts for both of those events.
Q: What are competitors telling you about standing starts? It seems to be a mixed bag.
BB: It's definitely mixed. For me, I kind of embrace the diversity that is IndyCar racing, and it is important for me on one hand to certainly embrace the heritage but also to look at new things that we can introduce to add intrigue and challenge the competitors. I've kind of had mixed reviews. A lot of this we've vetted with the competitors, we've talked to a lot of drivers, we've talked to a lot of team managers, we talked to some team owners about what their thoughts and opinions were, but many of them certainly have the rightful attitude of 'we may or may not always agree with what you're doing, but we understand you're making efforts to move IndyCar forward.'
Q: You're also efforting to reduce the opportunities for fuel mileage races.
BB: Absolutely, we made good efforts and I have to say [IndyCar technical director] Will Phillips and his crew have spent just tireless hours along with me on the rulebook and all these other items that we addressing here. So, I have to give him kudos and thank him for all his efforts and everything that he does for IndyCar. We went through all the calculations and looked at a lot of numbers for all of the races to try to eliminate the possibility of mileage races. Mid-Ohio last year is a great example. We looked at the length of the race before we went there and I actually said I was apprehensive to add many more laps, which in retrospect would have made it much better, because I assumed from history and a lot of knowledge that I have from the Mid-Ohio circuit that of [having] a lot of gravel traps that we would certainly have at least two relatively long yellows to retrieve a car or two from gravel traps. As you know, that race went green the entire distance so it played out as an absolute fuel strategy race. So there's a lot of factors that go into it. You can't completely predict everything, but we put our best heads together to give fans what they want which is flat-out racing from green to checker.
Q: Where do we stand with double-file restarts on the ovals?
BB: Actually, that's an item that we have addressed specifically. There's a lot of items that we left in the rulebook as they are but we certainly have the flexibility to revisit and evaluate those and put bulletins out at a later date. From what I learned last year mainly from what the drivers are capable of and our ability to [officiate them], we can fine-tune such as where they pair up, where they accelerate, where we throw the green flag, there are a lot of factors that [IndyCar] controls that potentially alleviate the driver concerns that I got when I initially arrived, I have the utmost confidence in the drivers' ability to deal with double-file restarts wherever we go.
Q: The heat races change at Iowa have changed. They're now 50 laps for each, and there's the ability to transfer to the final heat. There's not enough money in IndyCar to throw at the drivers, so you're throwing extra points at it. In some ways, that's going to make Iowa the second-most important race of the season given the number of points at stake.
BB: Yeah, it certainly will, and you hi the nail on the head. Competitors certainly like when we put money on the line, but we're not in the greatest financial [shape] to throw money at the cars every time they go out on the track, so we did the next-best thing: We're giving something we have an infinite supply of, and that's points. We created a little bit of a points table there for the heat races. We [thought] this last year, but we were a little bit apprehensive to throw everything at the wall at one time. We added the transfers so if you have a bad actual qualifying round you can race your way into the [final heat that determines the top starting positions for the Sunday race].
Q: Do you keep track of car counts and where drivers might end up?
BB: Honestly, I've heard rumblings as you probably have, and it gets tossed around a bit in the office, but I've read that a lot of people consider this one of the quietest silly seasons in memory. Honestly, we've been so buried in the rulebook that I've paid very little attention to what drivers have ended up where.
Q: At what point is now the top the aero kits for 2014?
BB: There's been a lot of discussion and obviously there's so many different factors and constituencies that have to be considered, consulted, dealt with, discussed with to have that make sense from all angles. I know the engine manufacturers are certainly interested in it. Honda and Chevrolet are very supportive. Obviously, they want as much advance notice as possible. They support it, but they want a good year's heads up so they can put the people in place and start the development. So yes, a lot of discussions. I think there's a more solid push for it from behind the scenes, but I couldn't even give you an idea of where my gut is [on it happening].