IndyCar embarrassed itself on network TV

UPDATE Another reader writes, Regarding all the accidents that will probably occur this year due to the double wide restarts, perhaps IndyCar should start putting the car numbers on the undertray of the cars so they can be identified faster when they flip! Janice Mathers, Austin, Texas

03/28/11 Dear, You have probably received hundreds of e-mails about the double file restarts. Let me ask you this- In 2007, Tony Cotman inserted standing starts for all of Champ Car's races. There were two pre-season tests that year, one at Sebring, the other at Laguna Seca. I attended the Laguna Seca test and I remember anywhere from 8-12 cars practicing standing starts at the end of each day for a good 30-45 minutes, making several attempts at them. Some drivers had never done them before, so it would make sense to have some dry runs before having the first race of the year.

Did Brian Barnhart, Kevin Blanch, and the rest of the intelligent IndyCar officials think to practice the double file restarts (bunching together, the acceleration line, and a tight first corner which is what most road and street circuits have) at the Barber test prior to St. Pete yesterday? The opening 15 laps were an embarrassment to the entire series. This was one of their ESPN/ABC races, where they get better ratings than on Versus, and that is how they start the season!? It was amateur hour at its finest. And these are the fastest and best drivers in the world? What a poor representation by the series when they can't start the season without taking out 5-7 cars, where 4 of them might have factored into the race. NASCAR can start their season without incident as can F1 cars, which are far more superior than the current Dallara. Another black eye for IndyCar which is a real shame, considering this is the most positive the off-season has been in a number of years. Brandon Stevens

Dear Brandon, I am not aware that they did any practice because it was felt all races begin double file so the drivers have had plenty of practice. However, historically on the street and road circuits the starts have been problematic, both for IndyCar as well as Champ Car. St. Pete in particular has almost always had an accident in the first corner. Why? Because with a rolling start the drivers behind have a bigger head of steam than the drivers in the front and come barreling into the first corner only to find that what they thought was a hole is no longer there. It is the main reason why campaigned so hard for standing starts in Champ Car. And guess what? It worked – the standing starts were not only a hit with fans, they cut down on first corner accidents because all cars started at the same speed – zero, and hence arrived at the first corner at a slower speed (less chance of a mistake) and there was less speed differential between the front of the grid and the back.

So historically double file rolling starts result in accidents at the first corner. So what did IndyCar do? They basically said "let's do double file restarts too." In essence they said let's see if what does not work for starts might somehow work for restarts. Not. As you read on these very pages when the rule was announced, double file restarts on street and road circuits is going to result in a lot of carnage. And it did. We would reserve them for oval tracks only.

Since, under Tony Cotman, the new IndyCar is being designed to do standing starts, and if you told me they would do both starts and restarts from a standstill, then, and only then will double file restarts work for non-oval races. Mark C.

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