[menu_index.htm]

Editorial

CART Restarts.....NASCAR Style

 by Mark Cipolloni
August 5, 2000

Last Sunday in Chicago the leader, Cristiano da Matta had a lapped car between him and 2nd place Michael Andretti before the race's last restart.  The back marker enabled da Matta to open up a 3-second lead before Andretti could find a way past.  The final margin of victory was 1.6 seconds.  Might the outcome have been different?  When it comes to restarts and exciting finishes, CART can learn a lesson or two from NASCAR.

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Others by Mark

Introduction

Because today’s Champ cars are so evenly matched, and aerodynamically clean, and braking zones incredibly short, passing during the race has become a rare commodity (except of course in the spectacular Handford Device events at Michigan and Fontana). In years past when there was sometimes a large performance difference between cars, overtaking was a bit easier. Technological advances have become so good that teams are able to zero in on the optimum suspension and aerodynamic setup for their cars, hence come race day, many times it is pit strategy, not on-the-track overtaking, that determines the winner. We see a similar phenomena in F-1, to an even greater extent, passing during the race is almost non-existent.

Indy Car racing, and CART in particular, could learn a lesson or two from NASCAR when it comes to restarting a race after a caution period. It is a prime opportunity for CART to create some spectacular passing opportunities, and change the entire complexity of the race. In the past restarts were exciting, now they are nothing more than a follow-the-leader procession back to full racing speeds. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that when it comes to fan entertainment (the fan, you know, the paying customer) NASCAR knows how to do things right, and restarts are one of them.

In NASCAR, at the end of a caution period, the field is brought down very slowly behind the pace car, in neatly aligned rows of two, to the green flag. The front row is not allowed to accelerate until the green flag is unfurled, which is held until the cars are nearly to the starters stand. This almost ensures that the field is very tightly bunched as they barrel down to the first turn and they stay that way several turns thereafter. Essentially NASCAR restarts their races exactly the same way they start their races, except the rows of two are determined by cars on the lead lap lined up next to lapped cars. Where no cars are lapped, cars lineup in rows of two as determined by their track position.

Contrast that with the single file CART restarts where the pace car pulls away from the leader and heads to the pits, turning over the restart to the lead car. The leader of course has a distinct advantage, as only he knows precisely when he is going to peg the throttle. No one is allowed to pass until the green flag is unfurled, meaning everyone accelerates hard well before the track goes green, but they must maintain their relative position to the car in front and the car behind. Invariably the leader spurts ahead opening up just enough of a gap that the driver following has no chance to overtake. The result is a fast single file freight train that goes barreling down into turn one in the same order they were before the restart.

CLICK TO VIEW DIAGRAM OF SINGLE FILE RESTARTS

CART Tried a Half-Hearted Attempt Once Before

Two years ago, CART tried to improve their restarts on oval tracks by lining cars on the lead lap up in single file to one side, and lapped cars in single file next to them, except near the end of the race where the lapped cars would line up directly behind the cars on the lead lap.. The idea had some merit but was quickly abandoned because it caused some confusion in getting the cars in the proper order before going green. Much of the confusion was the result of drivers and teams not being used to a new procedure, a procedure that was not consistent at all races. NASCAR can line a 40 plus car field up with little trouble, yet CART can’t? Hogwash, make a rule and stick to it. Eventually everyone will be accustomed to it and things will run smoothly.

Another mistake CART made was they still allowed the leader to control the restart pace, rather than the pace car. NASCAR restarts work so well because 1) they use the same procedure for all races and all support series, 2) the pace car stays in control until the very last minute, and 3) the restart speed to very slow and the pack is tightly bunched.

A Proposed Solution for CART

Per the CART rulebook, the current start restart procedures are:

6.20 STARTING THE RACE.

6.20.1. It is the responsibility of the driver of the lead race car to allow the pace car to accelerate away from the field. When the pace car has accelerated away from the field, the driver of the lead car will with consistency increase speed in order to allow all drivers in the field to accelerate in a like manner in order to avoid large gaps or congestion prior to the display of the green flag. Drivers are to respect the position of the other drivers around them, not encroach on their position and remain in their assigned row until the green flag has been displayed and they have crossed the starting line.

6.22. REALIGNMENT AND RESTART PROCEDURES.

6.22.1. When track conditions permit all competitors between the pace car and the race leader will be passed around to join the end of the pack up. Passed around competitors may not pit. No other reorganization of the field will occur except when specifically instructed by the officials. Once the reorganization plan has been declared, it will not be modified if a competitor enters the pit lane, falls off the pace or falls out of line.

6.22.2. Restart will be single file. It is the responsibility of the driver of the lead car to allow the pace car to accelerate away from the field. When the pace car has accelerated away from the field, the driver of the lead car will, with consistency, increase speed in order to allow all drivers in the field to accelerate in a like manner to avoid large gaps or congestion prior to the display of the green flag. Drivers are to respect the position of other drivers around them and not encroach on the position of other driver(s) until the green flag has been displayed. The restart of the race will be pursuant to 6.20.1. - Drivers must remain in order, as positioned, until the green flag has been displayed. On restarts, passing is allowed upon the display of the green flag.

6.22. PROPOSED NEW REALIGNMENT AND RESTART PROCEDURES.

6.22.1. When track conditions permit all competitors between the pace car and the race leader will be passed around to join the end of the pack up. Passed around competitors may not pit. No other reorganization of the field will occur except when specifically instructed by the officials. The cars will reorganize in rows of two based on the following:

  1. Cars on the lead lap shall line up on the inside. Lapped cars to the outside. Should there be no lapped cars, drivers will lineup in rows of two, in order of their current position in the race, similar to the start of the race.

  2. Should there be more cars on the lead lap than cars lapped, cars on the lead lap shall fill in the open spots in the lapped car line, based on their current position in the race. For example, if there were five lapped cars, the first five rows will be as described in ‘a’ above. The remaining rows shall be cars on the lead lap, in rows of two, in order of their current position in the race.

Once the reorganization plan has been declared, it will not be modified if a competitor enters the pit lane, falls off the pace or falls out of line.

6.22.2. Restart will be single double file. It is the responsibility of the driver of the lead car to allow the pace car to accelerate away from the field. When the pace car has accelerated away from the field, the driver of the lead car will, with consistency, increase speed in order to allow all drivers in the field to accelerate in a like manner to avoid large gaps or congestion prior to the display of the green flag. Drivers are to respect the position of other drivers around them and not encroach on the position of other driver(s) until the green flag has been displayed. It is the responsibility of the driver of the lead race car to allow the pace car to accelerate away from the field. When the pace car has accelerated away from the field, the driver of the lead car will maintain a consistent speed (usually in the range of 60 to 80 mph) in order to allow all drivers in the field to bunch up prior to the display of the green flag. Drivers are to respect the position of the other drivers around them, not encroach on their position and remain in their assigned row until the green flag has been displayed. Drivers shall maintain approximately one-car length separation between their car and the car in front of them. The restart of the race will be pursuant to 6.20.1 ‘Starting the Race’. - Drivers must remain in order, as positioned, until the green flag has been displayed. Whereas at the start when no driver can pass until crossing the S/F line, on restarts, passing is allowed upon the display of the green flag, which is at the discretion of the starter when it is felt the cars are appropriately aligned. If any driver accelerates prior to the green being displayed, the track will remain yellow. Should it be deemed that a driver purposely violated these restart procedures when there is only one lap remaining in the race to prevent the race from finishing under green, they shall be subject to disqualification from the event.

CLICK TO VIEW DIAGRAM OF DOUBLE FILE RESTARTS

What the Naysayers Will Say

The proposed new procedure for CART is almost identical to NASCAR’s restart procedures. Here is what the naysayers will say and what CART’s response should be:

  1. Q. There is some inherent danger in what has been proposed because bunching up the pack like NASCAR does leads to a better chance of contact, something that is very undesirable with open wheel race cars. Won’t that lead to more accidents? A. Essentially every restart will be just like the start of the race, a very intense but exciting moment. Champ car drivers are paid professionals. They should be able to restart races in the same manner that they start a race. We view this as good for our fans, the paying customer.

  2. Q. Isn’t it unfair that a lapped car(s) who otherwise would be behind the leader(s) of the race, now gain an advantage of starting side-by-side with cars on the lead lap and have a greater chance of possibly unlapping themselves? A. Possibly, but the roles might be reversed in other races. It has worked well for NASCAR for many years and the competitors accept it as part of race strategy and race luck. It certainly provides more opportunity for a fast car that lost a lap to regain that lap. We view this as good for our fans, the paying customer.

  3. Q. Isn’t it possible that a lapped car will now get between the race leaders and spoil an overtaking opportunity near the end of the race? A. It is clear that current procedures have not resulted in many overtaking maneuvers. Near the end of a race, we would expect that out of professional courtesy, lapped cars will move over and give the leaders of the race room to maneuver once the track goes green, similar to what you see in NASCAR. We view this as good for our fans, the paying customer.

  4. Q. Won’t this new procedure cause too much confusion getting the cars lined up properly, resulting in a possible delay in the restart? A. If NASCAR can do it with over 40 cars, we should be able to do it with 28. If it is instituted in all CART’s ladder series, much like NASCAR does, Champ Car drivers and teams will be familiar with the procedures. We would expect that once this procedure is used for several races, all competitors will find it to be second nature. We also expect that on occasion, race control will have to intervene to get the cars in proper order, but that is no different than what occurs today when there is a disagreement as to running order. With all the sophisticated timing and scoring in use today in CART, each team will know their relative position and be able to radio to their driver which car should be immediately ahead and behind. Once the drivers get the one lap to go signal, we would expect them to be alert and quickly lineup in their proper position. We view this as good for our fans, the paying customer.

  5. Q. With all the horsepower current Champ Cars have and the proposed slow restart speeds and bunching up, isn’t there a danger that some driver will lose control by being overly aggressive with the throttle, resulting in many cars being eliminated from contact? A. Similar to answer 1 above, we view restarts as no more difficult than the start of a race when drivers are on cold tires. We would expect them to take as much caution on restarts as they do on starts. We view this as good for our fans, the paying customer.

  6. Q. Isn’t it unfair to the leader who has worked so hard to gain an advantage, to not only have that advantage wiped out by the caution flag, but to also have the 2nd place car directly behind him with no lapped cars as a cushion? A. Possibly, but the roles might be reversed in other races. It has worked well for NASCAR for many years and the competitors accept it as part of race strategy and race luck. It certainly provides more opportunity for changes in position on the track. We view this as good for our fans, the paying customer.

We view the NASCAR restart procedure as good for the 'show' the fans get for their money.  If CART wants to have more exciting, close finishes like NASCAR, it can start by changing the restart procedures, at least on the oval tracks.

Go to our forums to discuss this article

CART restarts - NASCAR Style 8/5/00

Mario Andretti Tribute - America's Driver of the Century 8/3/00

Shift w/o Lift - How it works 8/2/00

Aerodynamics - CART's chance to make progressive changes 7/31/00

Chicago - Qualifying Report 7/30/00

Michigan 500 - Race Report 7/23/00

Michigan 500 - Qualifying Report 7/22/00

Soft Walls - Finally, a safer wall system 7/7/00

CART's HP dilemma 7/5/00

Buddy Rice deserves a shot at Champ Cars 7/5/00

Choices, Choices, we rate possible new CART venues 7/4/00

Cleveland Race report Super-sub now Superman 7/2/00

Cleveland Saturday 7/1/00

Cleveland Friday 6/30/00

Portland Race Report 6/24/00

Portland Saturday 6/24/00

Portland Friday 6/23/00

CART must avoid Detroit's politics 6/20/00

10 ways for CART to invest $100 million 6/12/00

Juan-derful Juan wins Milwaukee pole 6/03/00

Marlboro boys sandwich Andretti 6/02/00

Montoya and Ganassi do CART proud at Indy
5/28/00

Penske gets the Monkey off his back with 100th win at Nazareth

Welcome to AutoRacing1.com

A year of progress shapes Rockingham

A solution for CART's franchise dilemma

Lausitzring nears completion, fighting hard to win CART date

Paul Tracy keeps his Kool, wins LBGP for 2nd time

What is an American driver?

Warming up at Nazareth

172 mph in a Champ Car is the ultimate adrenaline rush 11/29/99

 

e-mail us:
contacts@autoracing1.com

Back to the top

AutoRacing1 is an independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by CART Inc., NASCAR, FIA,  FedEx, Winston, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without permission.
User agreement & disclaimer

Copyright 1999 - 2000, AutoRacing1, Hamilton, NJ

 

Bob Estes

2002 will be a critical year for Pook and for CART

Tongue-In-Cheek, we take out the crystal ball again

CART & IRL - it's becoming clearer now where we're going

CART & ALMS - Two Birds of a Feather?

What's the holdup on Chris Pook?

Will CART get Shanghaied?

2002 CART season shaping up just fine

CART Franchise Board fails to ratify new engines

Is Ginger just what the doctored ordered for Alex Zanardi

Vannini plays hardball with Forsythe

Spotlight on Mexico City

Is Premier1 positioned where CART should be?

Has the Gonzalo Rodriguez lawsuit turned in CART's favor?

Jim Russell Advanced Racing Course - Learning to race

CART - a stranger in a strange land

German 500 - measuring the media impact

CART N/A Engine/Car Update

An in-depth interview with Jonathan Vannini

Comparing CART and F1

Vannini advocates major overhaul to rescue CART series

Engines - There, that was easy, now let's get on with the racing

Americans don't realize what they have in CART

A proposed solution to CART's engine dilemma

Ford Cosworth opens its doors

Bullish on CART

A German's first-time CART experience

My thoughts on a variety of CART issues - by Jon Vannini

AutoRacing1 Exclusive - Is Shanghai in CART's future?

As CART goes global, what about its sponsors?

If Mexico City will get 350,000, would India get 400,000?

The inevitable globalization of CART

CART's new TV deal - don't put the CART before the horse

CART in China - Why Shanghai is the best venue

Rockingham is ready for CART.  Is CART ready for Rockingham?

Beating a dead horse.  Where's my fork?

Successful CART Venues - It takes two to tango

Setting the record straight on CART's German 500

Rebuilding CART from the grassroots up!

Could this be the break Gidley has been waiting for?

CART, ALMS or NASCAR extravaganza weekends

A true global vision will serve CART well

A proposal for CART and IRL to coexist peacefully

The Triple Crown - a proposal for CART's success

650HP, 750HP, 850HP, it doesn't seem to matter

Movie Review: DRIVEN

Ryan Arciero hopes to continue family dynasty

CART & IRL, a missed opportunity

Things are happening at CART

CART' Data Acquisition Systems - there's a new kid on the block.

CART's next moves will be crucial.

The greatest Long Beach GP of all-time.

CART & IRL - close, and yet so far.

CART Engines, if it ain't broke, don't fix it

And the 2001 CART Champion will be....

The HANS Device saved my fathers life

Soft walls or soft cars?

Safety- It's going to take more than just magic to fix

CART vs. IRL, Hatfields vs. McCoys

DRIVEN is CART's best chance to become mainstream

Is CART's problem really a lack of American's?

CART vs. NASCAR - TV Coverage

Perhaps CART need look no further than NASCAR to understand that the Bubbas' rule auto racing

Book review - Autocourse 2000/2001

Do heroes make a sport, or does a sport make heroes?

To-Do-List, for CART's new President

 Lawsuits, Will Greg Moore's final legacy to racing be more than one of "spirit"? 

Tire Warmers, an idea whose time has come

Branding CART and their race cars

Will CART's next leader be a corporate visionary?

Addressing CART's TV issues

CART, do you know who you are?

Will CART miss this boat too, - Destined to forever race in the shadows of NASCAR?

Lights to IRL Specs - Why the new Indy Lights cars should meet IRL specs

Soft Walls - drivers take a stand while you still can

Sigma team - ready to do combat in CART

CART Fan Forum - Highlights from CART's very first Fan Forum

Warren Hughes - A name to remember

CART restarts - NASCAR Style

Mario Andretti Tribute - America's Driver of the Century

Shift w/o Lift - How it works

Aerodynamics - CART's chance to make progressive changes

CART's HP dilemma

Soft Walls - Finally, a safer wall system

Buddy Rice deserves a shot at Champ Cars

Choices, Choices, we rate possible new CART venues

CART must avoid Detroit's politics

10 ways for CART to invest $100 million

Montoya and Ganassi do CART proud at Indy

Welcome to AutoRacing1.com

A year of progress shapes Rockingham

A solution for CART's franchise dilemma

Lausitzring nears completion, fighting hard to win CART date

Paul Tracy keeps his Kool, wins LBGP for 2nd time

What is an American driver?

Warming up at Nazareth

172 mph in a Champ Car is the ultimate adrenaline rush

Standing Start Rules proposed standing start rules for CART

Standing Starts are they right for CART Convert this page to
another language

e-mail us:
contacts@autoracing1.com

Back to the top

AutoRacing1 is an independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by CART Inc., NASCAR, FIA,  FedEx, Winston, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without permission.
User agreement & disclaimer

Copyright 1999 - 2001, AutoRacing1, Inc., Hamilton, NJ