Archive for the IndyCar Category

Possible Changes to Shoot-Out Qualifying

Posted in IndyCar on December 3, 2021 by Oilpressure

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Last week, it was reported in a Racer.com article by Marshall Pruett that IndyCar is in the final stages of a plan to alter the shoot-out qualifying format that has worked so well on non-ovals for years. This isn’t just changing something for the sake of change (because everyone knows that Change is Bad!). This is a direct result of the anticipated increased car count next season and beyond.

When there are twenty-seven entries, like we saw once or twice this past season; that creates a scenario when there may be as many as fourteen cars on-track for one of the groups in Round One. At some of the shorter tracks, that has created a problem for drivers to get a clean lap in qualifying when there are that many cars on-track. While it may not be a problem at Road America, it could get congested at street circuits like Long Beach, Toronto or St. Petersburg; which are all less than two miles in length. It could even get a little dicey at shorter road courses like Laguna Seca or Mid-Ohio.

So the end-result needs to be to have fewer cars on-track during qualifying. That means more groups with fewer cars in Round One.

Currently, the regular qualifying format splits the field into two groups for Round One. When there were only twenty-two cars; that would put a manageable eleven cars out there for each round. No matter how many cars are in each group – the top six cars in each group would advance into Round Two. Those twelve would battle to reach the Firestone Fast Six, to decide the pole-winner and the first three rows.

What has been proposed is to expand Round One into three groups. Even with twenty-seven cars entered, that puts only nine cars on the track for each group.

Where things change is that only three from each group advances. Furthermore, Round Two will be done away with. The top three cars from each of the three groups of Round One will advance to the final round to be known as the Fast Nine. Those nine cars will battle for the pole and the top nine starting positions.

I have an idea that the rule of unintended consequences may come into play. Depending how each group is loaded (usually set by practice times), there may be some very fast cars that only post the fourth quickest time in the group that get left out of the Fast Nine. It once was good enough to run mid-pack in a group, in order to advance to the next round. That won’t be the case under this format. Is that a good thing? You tell me.

Under the current system, it is possible for one of the smaller teams to post a mid-pack speed that is just quick enough to squeeze into the next round. That will be much more difficult under this new system. I’m not saying that’s bad or good, but it made things more interesting when a Foyt or Carlin car made it into the next round.

On the flip side, If three Ganassi cars and three Penske cars all end up in the same group – three of those cars will not be in contention for the pole or a high starting spot. If one group mostly consists of teams that usually start in the back of the grid, three of those cars are guaranteed to start no lower than ninth – while three normally fast cars will start no higher than tenth. I know that can potentially happen under the current system, but when only one-third of the group advances, it seems like that possibility is greater.

Theoretically, it should all work out the same – the fast cars will start up front, while the slower cars will start in the back. But there seems to be a much greater chance to shake up the field under this new plan. Is that a good thing? I don’t know.

I’m wondering if it might be a better idea to have three groups in Round One, and take the top four in each group. Then take those twelve and have the normal Round Two that we have under the current system. Then proceed as we currently do from there, ultimately having a Fast Six to decide the pole.

I don’t know if that fits into the current time window for television, but I think it would give a more accurate representation of faster cars for Round Two. I’m just afraid under the proposed plan that a fast driver can still be held up just enough to keep him or her out of the top three in the respective group. While it’s nice to see a wild card make it in every once in a while, don’t you really want the truly fastest cars to battle for the pole in the final round?

Fortunately, IndyCar wants to run all of this past the drivers before putting it into action. They should. Drivers are the ones that will think of all possible scenarios and how they might be directly affected. IndyCar would do well to listen to the drivers and get their input. After all, they are the ones that will have to live with the unintended consequences.

I remember in 2011, when IndyCar imposed their will and simply told the drivers that they were going to go with double-file restarts at all races – including the Indianapolis 500. No matter how much the drivers expressed their objections, IndyCar ignored their wishes because it was determined that the fans wanted it. Fortunately, there were no serious accidents related to double-file restarts that season; but the potential was always there. In 2012, single-file re-starts were re-instated at Indianapolis, Texas and Fontana as a result of driver’s pleas for safety. By 2013, single-file re-starts were a thing of the past. It took two years, but IndyCar finally listened to their drivers. They need to listen to them on the plans for altering the qualifying format too.

Overall, I’m for making changes. I do think that having too many cars on smaller tracks during qualifying can present problems. My hope is that the format they come up with will be used at all of the non-ovals – not just the shorter ones. If they do it at Toronto, they need to do it at Road America. Don’t keep fans (and drivers) guessing from week to week which format they will use each week. Finalize a plan and stick to it.

George Phillips

We Are More Than Halfway There

Posted in IndyCar on December 1, 2021 by Oilpressure

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I trust everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I know we did. I have always enjoyed Thanksgiving and the nice restful break that comes with it. It is now December. Soon Christmas will come and go and we’ll be ready to totally focus on racing.

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Happy Thanksgiving From The Oilpressures!

Posted in IndyCar on November 24, 2021 by Oilpressure

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We are now entering what is one of my two favorite times of the year. The Month of May and the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s rival each other for which is my favorite. In my opinion, they are both equal – mainly because I have such happy childhood and adulthood memories of both. I do not have any personal miserable memories of either.

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The Final Mystery of Silly Season

Posted in IndyCar on November 22, 2021 by Oilpressure

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We had been hearing rumbles for a while that the US Air Force sponsorship will not return to Ed Carpenter Racing (ECR). That confirmation came last Wednesday, from ECR as well as Conor Daly. Daly admitted that he had learned of the decision “…a little while ago”. I’m not sure if that means it was last week, last month or last quarter; but it is further proof that in IndyCar circles…where there is smoke, there is usually fire.

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A Few Nuggets to Use Next Spring

Posted in IndyCar on November 19, 2021 by Oilpressure

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Back in the old days, when there was a ton of IndyCar bloggers and we all knew each other – one thing that was never, ever discussed was how much web traffic we all got on our respective sites. There is not a ton of etiquette between bloggers; but to ask a blogger how many daily hits they got was akin to asking them how much money they made or quizzing about the bedroom activities between them and their spouse. You just didn’t do it.

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A Good Position to be In

Posted in IndyCar on November 17, 2021 by Oilpressure

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We learned last week what had been rumored for a while – Kyle Kirkwood will run the entire 2022 IndyCar season with AJ Foyt Enterprises in the famous No. 14. I stated my reservations about this move when it was first rumored, but now that it’s done – I don’t blame Kirkwood a bit.

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Qualified Enough to Comment

Posted in IndyCar on November 15, 2021 by Oilpressure

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I am about to contradict myself…sort of. This is my site, so I reserve the right to be inconsistent every now and then. For years, I have felt free to comment on various drivers skills, or lack thereof. Over a decade ago, I wrote a scathing commentary on driver Dennis Vitolo – calling him the worst Indianapolis 500 driver over the previous twenty years.

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