|A typical Indy 500 strung out start under the IRL|
Three-abreast starts are about to return to the Indianapolis 500 as part of sweeping changes coming to the Izod IndyCar Series.
IndyCar's starter will not wave the green flag to begin or resume races until the front row is within about 300 yards of the starting line. The cars will be traveling about 60 mph at that point, which means the formation will be more closely packed.
In recent years, leaders at Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been allowed to increase the pace in the north short chute, which often created separation well before the start-finish line.
There are risks with the tighter restarts, which will be two-abreast everywhere except the first lap of the 500. Wheel spin and the closeness of the cars figure to create more opportunities for contact in the first turn and opening laps.
"That's where cautions breed cautions," competition director Brian Barnhart said Wednesday.
Another new rule also aimed at increasing the sport's entertainment value: Something NASCAR calls "the lucky dog," which allows the first car not on the lead lap when a caution period begins to regain a lap and restart at the back of the field.
That policy, along with the double-file restarts, will be in place at all 17 circuits, beginning with the street course in St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 27.
The drivers were told of the double-file restart possibilities in January, and the concern was for the lapped cars restarting far up in the order. IndyCar has addressed that by allowing only lead-lap cars to pit on the first available caution lap. On the next lap, all other cars may pit.
As was the case previously, a lapped car that does not pit and remains ahead of the leader will be waved around to join the pack at the rear of the field.
Barnhart said it will be important for drivers to understand the nuances of the changes.
"It's acceleration points and how turn one will change and how the racing in the first three or four laps will change," he said. Indy Star