Thursday, May 15, 2014

Resetting the Restarts

Indycar has changed the restart procedures for the 2014 season. After four rounds, it can be clear that the new procedures aren't working.

The new procedures call for the leader on restarts to bring the field down slowly to the acceleration zone which is a couple hundred of feet within the flagstand. Once the leader gets to this zone, they can take off.

The accordion effect is the problem. As drivers in the back speed up to the pack, they encounter slow moving traffic and have to jam on the brakes. Everyone behind them has to react in time and collisions ensue.

We all remember what happened at St. Petersburg. Will Power lead the field to the acceleration zone. He was technically doing what he was told, but he sped up and then slowed down. Everyone took off, then slowed down, and cars began to collide. Marco Andretti and Jack Hawksworth had their days cut short. Jack had this to say after the crash:

"Yeah, I don't know what the leader was doing or what was happening in the front but they all just went. I heard green (on the radio). Everybody went and then suddenly the leaders all stopped. I hit somebody, somebody hit me. I just didn't know what was going on at the front." -Jack Hawksworth

Track workers haul away the car of Marco Andretti after it hits the wall during the controversial pit stop. The wreck left Andretti with a slight limp.
The wrecked car of Marco Andretti at St. Petersburg (Photo: Daniel Wallace / Tampa Bay Times)

This past race, Graham Rahal put on the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of him, causing Juan Pablo Montoya to hit him. Tony Kanaan then ran into Montoya. Rahal had his race ruined, Montoya was penalized, and both Montoya and Kanaan had to pit for damage. Rahal was upset after the crash, as he should be:

"These restarts are pretty stupid. You can't see back (in the pack) because the rear wings are so big. And the officials, we need to work with them to try to change this because there's going to be a lot of accidents. Right now, the way it is, they're trying to be like NASCAR and this isn't NASCAR. We can't just bump draft each other, this is what's going to happen if we do this for late restarts." - Graham Rahal
Graham Rahal climbs from his wrecked car after the restart accident (Photo: Kerry A. Keating / Indianapolis Star)

I agree with Graham 100%. The point of the new restart procedures is to prevent cars from the back from lagging back and getting a massive jump on the rest of the field. But isn't that is what's happening anyways? The drivers in the back keep crashing into each other because to try to compensate for this lag. Without knowledge or clarity as to when the leader is going to go, backmarkers guess when the green will drop. If they are wrong, they have to brake or face a penalty. Drivers hear urgency in the spotters voice when they say, 'Get ready, get ready, get ready' which causes them to stand up on the wheel. They go before they should and either break or hit someone.

Honestly, what was wrong with the old way of doing restarts? It's another one of those 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it" type of deals. I saw nothing wrong with the old way of doing things. It certainly did not create carnage like we are seeing with these new procedures.

Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey

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