It never fails to amuse when sanctioning bodies change their rules, apparently at will. There never seems to be any rhyme or reason, but they go ahead and do it anyway. INDYCAR, much like NASCAR, seems to revel in making changes to a product that was working before they put their fingers into the smoldering flame.
Even so, INDYCAR is tweaking its rules for the 2018 season, centering on the 102nd Indianapolis 500 scheduled the final Sunday in May. As it has in the past, the series is offering double points for this race and for the September season finale at Sonoma Raceway.
The Verizon IndyCar Series likes to accentuate activities on the historic 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. It’s the seminal race for Indy cars and deserves, the series contends, some extra-special treatment.
In addition to the double points earned in the longest race of the season, INDYCAR has a new set of qualifying points in play. In essence, during the two days of qualifying from May 19-20, only the top nine drivers and entrants will earn points. Pole position receives nine points, with second through ninth earning descending points to the one point earned for taking the spot outside Indy’s third row.
Those added points are nice for the top nine qualifiers; added monies for the most difficult four laps and 10 miles a racer ever drives would have been a far better solution to a problem that really doesn’t exist. Qualifying for the Indy 500 remains one of the most exciting single-racer exercises on the planet. It’s a shame this death-defying activity doesn’t rate an increased pay grade.
In other actions, the series has changed the manner in which oval qualifying (at tracks other than Indianapolis Motor Speedway) takes place. In the past, qualifying spots have been gained through a blind draw; for 2018 that’s scrapped and entrant points decide who goes last – the highest placed entrant’s racecar is the final one to take qualifying laps. A draw will be held for any teams lacking entrant points to figure out who is the unlucky entrant/driver to sweep the track for the balance of the session.
A wise move by INDYCAR gives team members Mother’s Day off following the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, scheduled for the second Saturday in May on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The track’s INDYCAR garages will be closed for Mother’s Day and the track won’t be open to the public on May 13. Garages reopen for car prep on Monday, May 14, but practice for the 102nd Indy 500 won’t start until the 15th, with rookie orientation and veteran refreshers on-circuit for the first two hours.
Firestone, INDYCAR’s sole tire manufacturer partner, has increased tire allotment at ISM Raceway (formerly known as Phoenix International Raceway), the Raceway at Belle Isle Park (Detroit), Texas Motor Speedway, streets of Toronto and Iowa Speedway. At those five events, teams receive an additional set of tires. Car weight is up for 2018 to 1,620 pounds for road circuits/street courses/short ovals and 1,590 pounds for superspeedways. This change is for new parts and added on-car cameras; it is related to the new universal aero kit that debuts this year.
Finally, the series is giving an added half-day of private testing to teams which did not participate in fall manufacturer testing with the new universal aero kit. Only one car per team may participate, and this test has to take place in conjunction with the team’s first on-track test of the year. In the case of new entrant Carlin, that initial test is taking place right now at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
No doubt INDYCAR will continue to play with its rules as it tries to fix procedures that really aren’t broken. The series championship has gone down to the wire – to the final race of each season – for at least the last 10 years. Whether double points have changed the outcome the past two years is up for debate, but there’s no question the series has presented competitive shows without the need for gimmicks.